Many years ago, not long after moving to Chicago into a new fairly high pressured ministry position, John Ortberg asked his mentor, Dallas Willard, “What do I need to do to stay healthy and alive spiritually?” Long pause. “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life”, he said at last. Another long pause. “Okay, I’ve written that down”, John told him, a little impatiently. “That’s a good one. Now what else is there?” John had many things to do and this was a long distance conversation, so he was anxious to cram as many units of spiritual wisdom into the least time possible. Another long pause. “There is nothing else”, Dallas said.
Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life. Hurry can destroy our souls and can keep us from living well. As we pursue spiritual life, we must do battle with hurry. For many of us the great danger is not that we will renounce our faith. It is that we will become so distracted and rushed and preoccupied that we will settle for a mediocre version of it – preventing us from a depth of spirituality. We will just skim our lives instead of actually living them.
Today, many of us suffer from what has come to be known as ‘hurry sickness’. We are a generation that is not into ‘good food’ or ‘cheap food’ but ‘fast food’! Even after fast food was introduced, people still had to park their cars, go inside, order, and take their food to a table, all of which took time. So we invented the Drive-Through Lane to enable families to eat in their cars, as nature intended.
Meyer Friedman defines ‘hurry sickness’ as “above all, a continuous struggle and unremitting attempt to accomplish or achieve more and more or participate in more and more vents in less and less time, frequently in the face of opposition, real or imagined, from other persons.”
Ruthlessly eliminating hurry from our lives does not mean we will never be busy. Jesus often had much to do, but he never did it in a way that severed the life-giving connection between him and his Father. Jesus was often busy, but never hurried.
John Wesley, at the age of 70, said, “Though I am always in haste, I am never in a hurry because I never undertake any more work than I can go through with perfect calmness of spirit.”
Hurry is not a disordered schedule. Hurry is a disordered heart. “Busy” is an outward state (many things to do). “Hurry” is an inward state – inaccessible to God, preoccupied, caught up with my own concerns, not fully present. It is an inward state of being ‘hassled or frantic’.
What are the symptoms of ‘hurry sickness’. John Ortberg, in his excellent book The Life You've Always Wanted, lists these for starters:
1. Constantly speeding up daily activities. We read faster, talk faster and even when listening, nod faster to encourage the talker to accelerate. At the stoplight, if there are two lanes and each contains one car, we find ourselves guessing – based on the year, model and driver of each car – which one will pull away the fastest. At the grocery store, we try to discern the quickest line. Then we keep track to see where we would have been.
2. Multi-tasking. We try to do as many things at one time as possible.
3. Clutter – lots of stuff and gadgets.
4. Superficiality – lack of depth.
5. An inability to love. Love and hurry are fundamentally incompatible. Love always takes time and time is one thing hurried people don’t have.
6. Sunset fatigue – we come home too tired, too drained and too preoccupied to love the people who are most important to us. We rush constantly and we live with an underlying tension.
Jesus never hurried. If we are to follow Jesus, we must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from our lives – because, we can’t move faster than the one we are following.
We can become unhurried people. Practice ‘slowing’ – drive in the slow lane, put your horn under a vow of silence, eat your food slowly, take the long check out line or don’t wear a watch for a day. Often hurried people are actually less productive.
The theology behind all of this is that God never requires more of us than we can do.
F.W. Boorham, an Australian writer, once said, “One of the supreme aims of a man’s life is to secure a margin. A good life, like a good book, should have a good margin. The most winsome people in the world are people who make you feel that they are never in a hurry.”
When people are with you do they feel like the most important person in the world?
The kingdom of God is not a hurried kingdom. We cannot do anything of quality when we are in a hurried inner state. Also, when we are tired or exhausted we don’t connect well with God or people.
One of the keys to developing a depth of spirituality is eliminating hurry from your life.
After all, God will not compete for your attention.