Hurry, Hurry!

Ann Spangler
Ann Spangler
2020 2 Apr

John Ortberg tells of asking a wise friend for spiritual direction after he and his family moved to Chicago. That friend was Dallas Willard. Here's how Ortberg recounts their conversation:

I described the pace of life in my current ministry. The church where I serve tends to move at a fast clip. I also told him about our rhythms of family life: we are in the van-driving, soccer-league, piano-lesson, school-orientation-night years. I told him about the present condition of my heart, as best I could discern it. What did I need to do, I asked him, to be spiritually healthy?

Long pause.

"You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life," he said at last.

Another long pause.

"Okay, I've written that one down," I told him, a little impatiently. "That's a good one. Now what else is there?" I had many things to do, and this was a long-distance call, so I was anxious to cram as many units of spiritual wisdom into the least amount of time possible.

Another long pause.

"There is nothing else," he said. "You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life."1

Ortberg concluded that hurry is indeed the enemy of spiritual health, quoting Carl Jung, who remarked that "hurry is not of the devil. It is the devil."

More than forty years ago, Thomas Merton contended that the pressures of modern life can themselves become a form of violence, saying that

To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence ... It kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.2

Living under this kind of pressure can disrupt our relationships, because pressure seeks an outlet. Too often it erupts as irritability and frustration. Slow-moving drivers, dawdling children, coworkers who need help, a job that takes longer than we anticipated--all can be reduced to obstacles we must fight to overcome. In the midst of the chaos we never step back to think deeply about anything nor do we listen for God's voice. Under such circumstances, it is hard to anyone to flourish.

  2. Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (New York: Doubleday, 1968), 86.