An over-stressed executive of a nonprofit ministry asked me, “How can I be spiritually healthy? What can I do to be a better leader for Christ?”
“Don’t hurry,” I replied. Repeating words that my mentor Dallas Willard said to me in a seminary class, I said, “You need to ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”
Ruthlessly eliminate hurry!
Then I added, “In order to eliminate hurry you’ll need to practice Sabbath. Regularly, you need to set aside a large block of time to be unhurried and unproductive. Do nothing. Don’t try to make anything happen. Relax. Pray. Enjoy God and your family.”
I concluded, “Somebody suggested it’d be a good idea to do this one day a week!”
My advice caught him off guard and led to a fruitful conversation and time of prayer about his pace of life and ministry and how he could learn to trust God more.
The next morning as I was driving to an appointment I caught myself hurrying!
Fortunately, the Holy Spirit convicted me of my hypocrisy and my unwise hurrying (hypocrisy being a sin and hurry being a burden, to use the language of Hebrews 12:1). He brought the words I had spoken back to me: Ruthlessly eliminate hurry.
I thank God that at that point I didn’t go into either guilt or denial, both of which would’ve just added to my problem.
Instead, assisted by the Spirit of Christ I relaxed my grip on the steering wheel. I took a deep breath…
A Simple Prayer for a Sabbath Day
I began praying the “Simple Prayer” I had been inspired to compose just a couple of days prior: “With Jesus I remember the Sabbath because, ‘You make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the work of your hands.’”
The second half of that prayer is a quote from verse four of Psalm 92, the Sabbath Psalm. I had been praying that Psalm on my Sabbath Day. I did it in a pattern of simplifying the prayer, repeating it slowly and dropping off the last phrase until all I’m left with is a simple Breath Prayer of the heart: “With Jesus.”
I must of have offered up that little prayer a hundred times or more that Sabbath day! It got inside of me. Then it came out of me when I was starting to hurry.
If wasn’t for my discipline of practicing Sabbath (a day to ruthlessly eliminate hurry) over a number of years I wouldn’t have been in a position to respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and slow down, tune into God’s presence, get into Jesus’ easy yoke and stay there as I go about my day and do the work that God has for me to do.
What a better way of life!
The first time I heard Dallas Willard’s advice that to foster spiritual health we needed to ruthlessly eliminate hurry was when I read John Ortberg’s account of Dallas offering this advice to him when he was an over-stressed pastor at Willowcreek Community Church. I was suffering from “hurry sickness” at the time and found encouragement in John’s 1998 Leadership Journal article on “Taking Care of Busyness.”
Since then being unhurried has become a major focus in my life and something I wrote about in my book Your Best Life In Jesus’ Easy Yoke.
To live unhurried is not just about the speed at which we’re moving, it’s especially about our attitude. Hurry is a symptom of exaggerated self-importance and trying to do too much. It steals from us the precious moment at hand. We lose perspective that “Now is the time of God’s favor; now is the day of salvation!” (2 Corinthians 6:2)
When we’re unhurried we are able to heed the word of God, “Cease striving and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10, NASB). Instead of rushing or worrying about what we need to do we can focus on what God is doing right now and join him in his kingdom that is righteousness, peace, and joy (Romans 14:17).
“With Jesus I remember the Sabbath because, ‘You make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the work of your hands.”