I confess to you that I am a hurrier. I wish I had a dollar for every time my kids have heard me say in an agitated tone “Hurry up!” Sometimes I walk in a hurry and leave my wife behind. When I have to wait in line, or a flight gets delayed, or there is dead time in a worship service, or someone is telling a long story, I find myself internally saying, “Could you please hurry up.”
When I served as an executive pastor at Saddleback Church, I began to notice a developing pattern. I was regularly out on the patio before and after services. Other staff members or volunteers would come to me for a variety of reasons. But, almost always, they started off our interaction with the same exact words. “I know you’re busy, but…” The very people I was supposed to be serving began to feel like they were an interruption or imposition. I’m not sure if it was my body language or lack of listening or that I was looking past them to the next thing I needed to do, but people were sensing that I was in a hurry and overloaded… I was BUSY.
I’ve been thinking about starting a support group for compulsive hurriers. The good news is that our meetings wouldn’t last long.
If I’m honest, I would tell you that I have a love/hate relationship with my busyness. I hate being hurried and hassled by an overcrowded schedule but more often than I want to admit, the feeling of being in demand is intoxicating. It feeds my ego and makes me feel needed. And, I can even carry my busyness as a badge of honor. The lie I have believed is that important people are busy people.
Having every moment filled with activity and noise can be a kind of drug. It can actually become the fuel that keeps us living at an insane pace. Here are some questions I have been asking myself and I would encourage you to ask as well. “What is driving my busyness? Why is it so hard to be still and quiet? Is there some emotional need or insecurity that keeps me going at an unreasonable pace?”
This issue has huge implications for the health of your soul, the vitality of your walk with God and your stress level.
After John Ortberg had accepted a new church staff position, he went to Dallas Willard for some wisdom. "If you had to give me one piece of advice, one thing that I need to watch to make sure that I stay spiritually vital, what would it be?" And this is what he said to me. He said, "You must eliminate hurry from your life."
You cannot live life at warp speed without warping your soul. And you cannot follow Jesus at a sprint.
I have a friend who serves as an executive pastor in Canada. A few years ago he was diagnosed with cancer. Because of the treatments he took a medical leave of absence for several months. Our prayers and his treatments were effective and his cancer is in remission. One day, after he had returned to his position, I asked him what was the greatest lesson he learned during that time he was off work and receiving his treatments. Without hesitation he answered “hurry is the enemy of relationship.”
Let that soak in. Hurry is the enemy of relationship. Gradually, I am learning that speed and intimacy do not make good partners. What is true in my marriage is also true in my relationship with God. I can’t have a deep relationship with my wife in a “hurry”. This insatiable need for speed sets us up for a monumental spiritual struggle. Our lives are over-stimulated, but our souls are undernourished.
When you run fast and hard and long, eventually you will drain your soul. You won’t really notice it for awhile but you will wake up one day and be emotionally empty and spiritually dry. Ministry will feel hard and frustrating. People will get on your nerves more than usual. That is not a fun place to be, especially when the demands of ministry never take a break.
Now, this is where it gets real dangerous. When you are red-lining and yet you have nothing in the tank (emotionally or spiritually)… you, my friend, are in trouble. Here is what I have observed in my life and the lives of other ministry leaders. Running on empty will eventually lead to cynicisim, disillusionment, and burn out. YOU are not the exception.
So, how is the pace of your life? Are you red-lining? Are you living a healthy rhythm? Ask a couple of trusted friends or family members to honestly assess how you are doing with this area of your life.
Let me leave you with a question for you to ponder… What would it take for YOU personally to slow down?