By Troy Haagenson
I was on summer vacation along the beautiful Oregon coast when I overheard my sister Kristie say something to my wife that hit me like a baseball bat. “He is so impatient. I don’t know how you can live with him.” Her words stopped me in my tracks and sent me on a long-overdue journey of reflection. Am I really that bad? Why am I in such a hurry anyways, and so often?
Maybe you can relate to the fretful look at the clock or a heavy foot behind the wheel. How often our irritation is manifest in the all-to-familiar exhale out the nose. Signs of impatience are everywhere, and they often come from us.
If this is how life is supposed to be, it sure isn’t modeled in the natural world. The house cat spends much of the day sleeping. The leaves of trees change colors unhurriedly before falling to their new home. The Canadian geese fly rhythmically across the sky to their winter homes while snow falls at a quite pace. Regarding the unrushed and consistent timing of seasons, God gave a promise after the great flood in Genesis 8:22. “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” There is a consistent cadence to nature that testifies to God’s unhurried existence.
Quite opposite, the average American rushes from one task to the next. And it is complicated. We have excessively busy lives, which we see as a compliment and wear as a badge of importance. In a worldwide survey of 20,000 Christians, 4 in every 10 people reported that they “rush from task to task” often or always.
Rush to work. Schedule appointments tight. Speed home. Run through the drive through. Could it be that we are actually becoming less effective by our too-full schedules and break-neck pace? Evangelist E.E. Cleveland put it this way, “We are working ourselves to death getting nothing done.”
When I reflect on the life of Christ, I cannot imagine Jesus rushing to do anything. Like the planets in their rotation that know no haste or delay, Jesus moved through life with unhurried steps. The Bible gives no indication that Jesus was anxious to start his public ministry after years in obscurity as a carpenter’s son. Imagine living in the first century and seeing a twenty-seven year old Jesus deliver a new ox yoke to your family home? We could easy ask, “Aren’t there more important things for you to do Jesus? Hurry up and get out there and change the world.”
Jesus was 30 years old when he hit the streets to preach and teach and heal the world. What he did in 3 ½ years of ministry changed the world and altered the destiny of mankind, all without being in a hurry.
Does the Bible actually talk about a healthy pace of life? Jesus is never recorded as running, rushing or being anxious to move faster. But are there other examples to be found in the Bible?
John the Baptist was described in Matthew 3:4 as eating locus and wild honey, a diet indicative of someone away from society and in the solitude of nature. Jacob worked seven years to take the hand of Rachel in marriage. He was then deceived by his father-in-law and had to wait another seven years to reach the wedding day. Moses was exiled from Egypt for forty years as a shepherd in preparation to deliver the Hebrews from pharaoh. After Paul was converted on the road to Damascus, he spent three years in Arabia before returning as a public figure. Galatians 1:17,18
When Martha was fretfully trying to get food ready for Jesus, her sister Mary was sitting at His feet. Her rebuke of Mary’s idleness received a surprising response from Jesus. “Martha, Martha, you are careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary has chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41,42
We view the world differently when we are in a rush. Blessings go unnoticed and the essentials seem nonessential. When we arrive at our sunset years, will any of us be glad we hurried through major portions of life? Its been said that among senior citizens who were asked if they would do anything differently if they could live their lives over again, three common responses were found. They would take more chances. They would spend more time with family. And last but not least, they would stop more often to smell the roses.
Slowing down is a life-art gained through discipline. It has to become a value that is prioritized. It necessitates a philosophical buy-in with a strong willingness to slow down the schedule. It requires the self-restraint to say no to opportunities that take away from balanced margins. Some current obligations may need to be dropped. Future invitations may need to be declined. As the common saying goes, “For everything you say ‘yes’ to, you are saying ‘no’ to something else.”
One of the major lessons I learned from the Covid-19 shutdown in America was that I couldn’t mature spiritually while in a rush all the time. My life was too busy and too over-booked to be present with God. I had been dying spiritually and too busy to know it. I was troubled about many things, but I had neglected that which my soul desperately needed.
When my family moved from Philly to Boise in 2014, it took six months to slow down my car. (If you live in Boise, you know what I mean). There are multiple types of drivers in America. Those in a hurry will see a yellow traffic light and speed up. Those that are unrushed will roll to a stop. There are many signals that entice us to speed up our lives. What many of us need is to slow down. Jesus modeled a balanced life. May we follow His example and step into the divine rhythm of an unhurried life.