I’d thought that the pandemic had taught me how to slow down. Yet the days were still busy with online courses, mentoring, communication, not to mention the whole leaving and transition process of moving to another continent. It’s amazing that even if you don’t have too much to do, it’s still not difficult to get caught up with a ‘hurry’ attitude. It makes you drive faster even though you have plenty of time, eat quicker even when you have the opportunity of taking it easy and it makes you move faster to the next thing on your agenda. That’s why it’s called ‘hurry sickness.’
These first months of living in Canada have taken my understanding of slowing down to a new dimension – to enjoy a walk rather than having to drive, to read in the afternoon, even if it’s just a few pages, to linger over meals and chat, to think about my relationships and to communicate my thoughts and prayers, to daydream, to move into contentment, to experience a peace in my body, mind and heart and not always be in preparation mode, to enjoy simple tasks of making Christmas cards, cooking meals, editing manuals, setting up Trello boards and the like, to send my mum her regular weekly postcard.
There is still lots to keep me busy but now I am enjoying a more relaxed, enjoyable way of operating rather than rushing from one task to the next. Even when we’re in busy seasons with many responsibilities, our lives don’t have to be hurried.
It has surprised me how long it’s been taking to come to terms with not achieving as many things every day, not feeling guilty about not doing enough or having things to show for my day. I still have some demands, speaking engagements, deadlines and responsibilities that must be fulfilled but I have decided to take it slower – to take time to watch the birds, to think, feel and enjoy. The S DISC personality type knows this already – as a DC I must learn it – this ruthless elimination of hurry. The book with this title by John Mark Comer is a must read that I thoroughly recommend. Some of the thoughts here originated from him.
Corrie ten Boom once said that ‘if the devil can’t make you sin, he’ll make you busy.’ To be honest I don’t think the devil has to do much of anything – our culture’s number one value is ‘hurry.’ In our western culture, slow is a negative word. If a film is boring, it’s called ‘slow.’ When the service at a restaurant is poor, we call it ‘slow.’ When someone has a low IQ, they are sadly called ‘slow learners.’
How many adverts do you see which state: Last chance for this offer, apply today! When computers first emerged, scientists thought we would all be having three or four day weeks. Yet with every new time-saving device we cram more into our schedules. We used to send letters without expecting a reply for several weeks; now we want a response within the hour. What do you think about the statement, ‘if you need something done, give it to a busy person!’ Those of us caught up in our workaholism just take on more things without a second thought.
Definition of hurry sickness
A behaviour pattern characterised by continual rushing and anxiousness.
Signs of hurry sickness: irritability; hypersensitivity; restlessness; workaholism; emotional numbness where you don’t feel your own or the other one’s pain; out of order priorities; lack of care for your body; escapist behaviours; slippage of spiritual disciplines; isolation from God, others and self.
Hurry causes us stress: I wonder if something changed in 2007? During that year there were technological breakthroughs with the production of the iPhone along with the emergence of Facebook and Twitter. How have these devices changed our world? Do we find ourselves reaching for our phones as soon as they beep, sound or buzz in our pockets? Are we spending way too much time surfing through FB entries or Twitter feeds?
Hurry stops our reading and reflecting. The Pew Research Centre did a survey in the USA on the number of books read in a year. The most frequently reported number was four books. What about you? There isn’t a study, but generally CEO’s or executives read four to five books per week. If you are a leader, where do you receive your input? These days audio books and podcasts, where you can listen to stimulating interviews and talks on the move, are a help.
Hurry hinders spiritual life. Henri Nouwen said, ‘Without solitude it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life. … We do not take the spiritual life seriously if we do not set aside some time to be with God and listen to Him.’ We see Jesus leading a busy life with preaching, healing and discipling the twelve, yet He takes time to slip away by Himself into the mountains to be alone.
Hurry hinders our prayer life. Walter Adams, the spiritual director to C. S. Lewis said, ‘To walk with Jesus is to walk with a slow, unhurried pace. Hurry is the death of prayer and only impedes and spoils our work. It never advances it.’
Hurry kills relationships. Love takes time. Hurry doesn’t have it. What you give your attention to is the person you become. Martha missed relating with Jesus because she was worried about many things – important things, but not the priority when there was an opportunity of sitting at Jesus’ feet.
Hurry hinders the development of character. The fruit of the spirit grows from disciplined lives. Think about love, joy, peace and whether it’s possible to enjoy and emanate these qualities if you’re in a hurry. Hurry is not compatible with love, joy and peace. So, are we really developing in these qualities of the fruit of the spirit if there is any hurry in our lives?
Here are some simple ideas for ‘slowing down’:
- Drive the speed limit
- Get in the slow lane
- Walk somewhere instead of driving
- Take moments in the day to pause
- Enjoy a five or ten minute nap
- Develop a daily journal to start each morning in mediation and thinking about the day ahead to connect with God’s priorities for you
- Make boundaries between meetings to have a small margin of peace
- Linger for a moment to connect with people in conversation
- Set a time limit on social media and TV – we do it for kids, we need it too
- Spend time in your daily devotions before picking up your phone or turning on your computer
- Come to a complete halt at stop signs (that’s for the Americans – Europeans love their yield signs)
- Talk to Jesus, your spouse, a friend about anything that is troubling you rather than putting the lid on it and moving on
- At the end of the day, take a moment to debrief the day – what am I thankful for, what am I sorry for and what did I learn?
- This may sound strange, especially to guys, but six months ago my daughter spoke to me about my skin care routine. To which I responded, I have never had one! I guess I did, but it was a poor routine. So being a teachable father, I listened and allowed her to buy me four bottles of ‘stuff’ to apply to my face with a specific routine. I must say it slowed down my bathroom time, forced me to look in the mirror (scary), and is making a difference to my skin. (I don’t look eighty-five anymore!)
- Take up a sport – running, cycling, swimming, walking. There are so many benefits, but a major one is giving our minds a rest and, if we approach it without a competitive spirit, it will bring great relaxation and a nice rush of endorphins into our lives.
If a vine doesn’t have a trellis it will die. And if your life with Jesus doesn’t have structure to facilitate health and growth, it will wither away too. I would therefore encourage you to add a slowing trellis to your life. A trellis isn’t to make the vines stand up straight but to give room for the grapes to produce a nice glass of wine.
The fragrance and taste of our lives will be enhanced by our slowing down, developing those godly rhythms and investing our time and energy into things that have lasting value.
Until next month,