Summary: First of a series of three on balance in the Christian life.
The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 18, 2005
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church
The Rev. M. Anthony Seel, Jr.
“Finding Balance at the Speed of Life”
Many of us have a vague “feeling” that things are moving faster.
Doctors and executives alike complain that they cannot keep up
with the latest developments in their fields. Hardly a meeting or
conference takes place today without some ritualistic oratory
about “the challenge of change.” Among may there is an uneasy
mood- a suspicion that change is out of control. [p. 19]
Those words were written in the 1970s by Alvin Toffler for his mega-bestseller, Future Shock. Toffler continues his observations in a chapter he titled “The Pace of Life”, saying,
The average individual knows little and cares less about the cycle
of technological innovation or the relationship between knowledge-
acquisition and the rate of change. He is, on the other hand, keenly
aware of his pace of his own life – whatever that pace may be. [p. 36]
It is the pace of our lives that we will be concerned about today in this first of a series on finding balance in an unbalanced world. . A CNN poll in 2001 revealed that 69% of Americans said, “I would like to slow down. I would like more time to relax.” At the same time, a Harris poll said that we are actually spending 8 ½ hours less time per week in leisure than we did ten years ago. In the words of Pastor Rodney Buchanan, “As a nation, we are driving ourselves at an increasingly frenzied rate that is pushing us over the edge. We are trying to live out our dreams and finding ourselves living in a nightmare.”
Medical Doctor Richard Swenson observes that
Progress has given us unprecedented affluence, education, technology,
and entertainment. We have comforts and conveniences other eras could
only dream about. Yet somehow, we are not flourishing under the gifts
of modernity as one would expect. [Margin, p. 15]
What Dr. Swenson calls “the new universal constant” is “marginless living” (p. 13). He explains,
Marginless is being thirty minutes late to the doctor’s office because you
were twenty minutes late getting out of the hairdresser’s because you were
ten minutes late dropping off the children at school because the car ran out
of gas two blocks from the gas station – and you forgot your purse. [ibid.]
Swenson suggests that
We feel distressed, but in ill-defined ways. We can tell life isn’t what it
used to be or perhaps not quite what we expected it to be. Then we look
at our cars, homes, and color televisions with remote control and conclude
that our distress must be in our imaginations.
But it isn’t in our imaginations; it is the truth about our reality. Life is moving at a hectic pace and it is difficult to find any sense of balance at the hyper speed of all that we have to do. How can we find balance at the speed of life? Could words written thousands of years ago have any relevance to our lives today? Let’s take a look and see.
At the beginning of our Old Testament reading, we hear, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” The first verse of Ecclesiastes introduces the book as “the words of the Preacher, the son of David, king of Jerusalem” (1:1). Old Testament scholar R.B.Y. Scott calls Ecclesiastes “the strangest book in the Bible (Anchor Bible, 18:191). Scott comments, “The author’s mood of doubt and pessimism is one into which many reflective persons fall from time to time, and in which not a few of the more skeptical remain” (p. 193). Life with all its contradictions is one big challenge, and the smaller challenges that add up to that one big challenge can bring us all to doubt or pessimism from time to time.
If there is a season for everything, as the Preacher of Ecclesiastes says, and a time for every matter, why is it that many of us have such a difficult experience finding the time necessary for all the demands placed on us? With our boss telling us what to do, our spouse asking us to do something else, and our kids wanting another something else from us, where do we find the time? We may have school requirements, in addition to what the church is calling for each of us to do, the expectations of our extended family, close friends and neighbors, community organizations… Where is the time for all that life demands of us?
The biggest challenge of all may be to find some sort of rhythm that puts into place all the disparate pieces of our lives. How can we successfully manage the speed of life? How can we maintain our balance with all that our pace of life demands? In a Time magazine cover article entitled, “Stress, Anxiety and Depression,” the author called our condition “The twentieth century blues.” Many of us are over-extended and stressed-out as a result of too much happening too fast in our lives.