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Be Busy. But Don't Hurry.

The Christian pastor and writer John Ortberg writes about what he calls "hurry sickness."

Since this seems to be a "crazy-busy" time of year for many of us, and in preparation for the summer, when (I hope) things get less hurried for most of us, I thought some of Ortberg's insights bear repeating.

How do you know if you suffer from hurry sickness?

According to Ortberg, here are some symptoms:

Speeding up. You are haunted by the fear that you don't have enough time to do what needs to be done.

When listening you nod more often to encourage the other person to accelerate.

You chafe whenever you have to wait.

Clutter. The hurry-sick lack simplicity.

Sunset fatigue. We come home after work, and those who need our love the most, those to whom we are most committed, end up getting the leftovers. This is part of what author Lewis Grant calls "Sunset fatigue"-all those end-of-the-day behaviors that signal hurry sickness:
  • You rush around at home even when there's no reason to.
  • You speak sharp words to your spouse and children, even when they've done nothing to deserve them.
  • You hurry your children along. You set up mock races ("Okay kids, let's see who can take a bath fastest"), which are really about your own need to get through it.
  • You tell your family that everything will be okay in just a week or two. (A pastor friend of Ortberg's says how, in a busy season, he found himself living for "two weeks from Tuesday" because then his schedule would lighten up, at least for a few days. But he realized this had become a way of life. He was always living for "two weeks from Tuesday.")
  • You indulge in self-destructive escapes: watching too much TV, abusing alcohol, or scanning the internet too much.
  • You flop into bed with no sense of gratitude and wonder for the day, just fatigue. 
Love impaired. The most serious sign of hurry sickness, though, is a diminished capacity to love. For love and hurry are fundamentally incompatible. Love always takes time, and time is the one thing hurried people don't have.

Jesus told the story of the kingdom of God being like seeds planted along a road, and some seeds are eaten up, some don't take root, some wither, and some are choked out by the "cares and riches and pleasures of life."
Hurry will keep us consumed by the things in our lives and keep God's ways from taking root in our lives.

That is why Jesus frequently took time for quiet and prayer in his life. He was frequently going off for times of quiet solitude. After he'd commissioned the disciples and they came back full of energy and excitement and reported all they'd done, his response was "go away to a deserted place all by yourselves, and rest a while." We're told that so many were coming and going, "they had no leisure, even to eat."

Too often, that could be a description of the way we go through life. So much coming and going, there is no leisure, even to eat."

In order to hear the "still, small voice of God," we must work to eliminate hurry from our lives.

Let me make one thing very clear, though: This does not mean we will not be busy.

Jesus was an extremely busy person - sometime sit down and read the Gospel of Mark in one'll find that he was on the move, and had lots to do. But Jesus never moved in such a way that he was disconnected from his source of life, joy and peace.

Jesus knew that it is impossible to hurry and to love at the same time. He was often busy, but never hurried.

The cure for hurry sickness, Ortberg says, is to "ruthlessly eliminate hurry from our lives."

That's good advice, and it sounds like a pretty good summer resolution: make times for deep rest; and in the busy times, ruthlessly eliminate hurry from our lives.


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