The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry

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How often does the average person touch his or her cell phone?

The answer seems to be “more than you can possibly imagine.” 

According to the research firm dscout, typical owners of mobile devices touch their phones 2,617 times a day.  And we’re not even talking about so-called extreme users.  The most serious addicts, who represented the top 10% of those surveyed for the 2016 study, touch, tap, swipe or merely pick up their phones more than 5,400 times every 24 hours.  Apple has confirmed that iPhone users unlock their devices six to seven times every hour. 

This presents a conundrum.  The smart phone has long been marketed as a time-saving, relationship-enhancing, life-enriching marvel.

But it may just be another distraction that prevents us from paying attention to things that really matter.

In his book The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, pastor John Mark Comer makes the case that our culture isn’t suffering so much from busyness as from hurry.  Busyness is normal.  Most 21st century adults have a lot to do.  But hurry is different.  Hurry is a frantic state of mind, a sickness of the soul, a depressing suspicion that our lives are slipping away from us.  We can’t seem to get off the treadmill of immersing ourselves in activities that are unworthy of our time. 

If only we had 10 more hours a day.  Then we could get everything done.

But according to Comer, “The solution to an overbusy life is not more time.”  Nor is Red Bull.  Nor is a crash course on how to reorganize our closets and our calendars. 

By age 21, the average American male has spent at least 10,000 hours playing video games.  Does that number ring a bell?  Recent research has confirmed that high performers in almost every field of human endeavor – from playing the cello to ice skating to designing computer software – have typically spent about 10,000 hours practicing their skills in order to become the best. 

We already have the time to do amazing things.  Now it’s just a question of how we’ll utilize those hours.  Will we become remarkable parents and mentors?  Committed community volunteers?  Inspired students of Scripture?  Or will we settle for getting to the next level of World of Warcraft or binge-watching the next must-see TV series?

Many would-be disciples of Jesus feel frustrated by the task of trying to wedge him into their lives.  Spiritual growth seems like yet another nagging obligation.

But Jesus will not be squeezed into a crowded, hurried existence.  He insists on dwelling at the center of things. 

Let’s face it: There’s a real possibility that our lives are so cluttered we won’t be able to follow him at all. 

What can we do?

First, we choose to accept our limitations.  We can’t do everything.  We shouldn’t do everything. 

Turning down new opportunities and saying goodbye to soul-numbing habits may feel like death.  But such choices are gateways to a simpler, happier life.  As Anne Lamott reminds us, “’No’ is a complete sentence.”

Next, we say “Yes” – Yes to Jesus’ invitation to let go of hurry.  Instead of experiencing life as an endless list of Stuff I Have to Do, we walk alongside him as apprentices:   

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30, The Message)

Living freely and lightly means that our present moments, more and more, can be described by six words:  A joyful awareness of God’s presence

As Jesus’ apprentice, I begin to rethink the existence I already have.  I become increasingly aware that God is with me every time I make a sandwich.  And brush my teeth.  And back my car out of the garage.  And prepare a report.  And kiss the ones I love.  And climb into bed at night.  

I don’t have to push harder or double my workload or win the lottery or go on a Caribbean cruise to experience the greatest thing this world has to offer: the assurance that because I am God’s treasured child, my life has depth and meaning, and will last forever. 

If only our smart phones were smart enough to remind us of that every time we touch them.