John Mark Comer, teacher pastor from Bridgetown Church and host of ‘This Cultural Moment’ podcast, explores how fighting the busyness of life might be the key to a deeper revelation of Christ…
One of the first things that you notice about Jesus is that he was rarely, if ever, in a hurry. One of my favourite theologians was once asked to describe Jesus in one word. Do you know what he said? “Relaxed.” If you had one word to describe Jesus, is “relaxed” what comes to mind? But think about it: can you imagine a stressed out Jesus? It’s a bit hard, right?
In story after story, Jesus was present in the moment. He would regularly ask questions, he would dialogue, he would interact. He put on display an unhurried way of life. So, as apprentices of Jesus, our starting point is to match our pace of life to his. To follow Jesus is to walk with God. Not to run with God, or sprint with God, or jet-set with God. But to “walk with God.” To live by what Eugene Peterson called, “the rhythms of grace.” For most of us, this means we need to slow down. Because this hurriedness, this busyness, this rush, this frenetic pace, it robs us of the capacity to be present.
So, as apprentices of Jesus, our starting point is to match our pace of life to his. To follow Jesus is to walk with God. Not to run with God, or sprint with God, or jet-set with God. But to “walk with God.”
A friend of mine once called up his mentor and said, “I’m stuck. How do I move forward and get healthy again, and do this whole life thing?” There was a long silence on the other end of the line and then the mentor replied with just two sentences: “Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” And, after another long silence, “There is nothing else.”
I live in the urban core of Portland, Oregon – one of the most progressive cities in all of America – and if I was making a list of the greatest challenges you face following Jesus in this kind of environment I would not have put “hurry” on it…much less at the top. But the longer I think about it, the more I come to believe this is true. The greatest enemy of spiritual life in our day – not through human history, but in our day and age – is this thing of hurry. A therapist in our church remarked to me once that people are just too busy to live emotionally healthy and spiritually awake, and I have come to believe that is 110% true.
Violence On The Soul
Do you have “hurry sickness”? If you’ve ever changed checkout lines because another one seems to be moving faster, multitasked to the point of forgetting something, or any number of similar behaviours, then chances are you might do. But hurry is a form of violence on the soul.
We think the problem is time. But let me tell you, the solution is not more time. If the universe were reshaped and all of a sudden there were ten more hours in a day or three more days in a week, what would we do? If you’re anything like me, you would just fill up those hours with the exact same stuff that you’re doing now but more of it, and at the end of the day or the end of the week, you’d be even more exhausted than you are now. It’s God’s mercy that He put a limit on the number of hours in a day and days in a week. So the solution is not more time; it’s to slow down and to simplify our lives around what really matters. Not to add but to subtract.
So the solution is not more time; it’s to slow down and to simplify our lives around what really matters. Not to add but to subtract.
One of the ways we do this is through the practices of Jesus, or what church tradition calls the “spiritual disciplines”. These are time-tested, ancient ways of being in apprenticeship to Jesus. They’re not a legalistic guilt-trip or a to-do list, but an answer to how you go about following Jesus. And, as such, how you not only survive but thrive as a human being in a very tough and challenging world.
Here are the top four practices that I find helpful in the fight against hurry:
- Sabbath. Taking a whole day every week to rest.
- Silence and solitude.
- Living simply. Getting rid of things I don’t need.
- Embracing the spiritual discipline of slowing down.
That last one is a newer spiritual discipline but totally fits with how Jesus lived. For me it looks like finding fun ways to slow my body and my life down. Like choosing to drive in the slow lane while every other car flies past, or even just sticking to the speed limit. Sometimes, at the supermarket, I choose the longest queue on purpose. I turn off my phone at 8.30pm. I walk slower. I talk slower.
Do you remember the last time you were bored? So often we just reach for the appendage that is our phone and we answer an email or we text or we check the weather. Yet all of these little moments – standing in line, stuck in traffic, at a red light, on a flight – all of these little moments of boredom are potential portals to prayer. Little opportunities, little open doors to come back to our body, our soul, and to our awareness of and connection to the spirit of God.
What happens when all of these potential portals are swallowed up by the phone, by the Internet, by a podcast, by the radio? What happens when they’re all just gone?
Find Your Trellis
It’s easy to get turned off by anything that feels like a “rule”. But the Greek root of the word was actually just the word for a trellis. Think of a vineyard, and of Jesus teaching about abiding in the vine to bear much fruit. For a vineyard to grow and thrive, it has to have a trellis underneath the vine. For you to grow and thrive, to experience God and bear fruit and become the person that, deep in the marrow of your bones, you know you were made to be, you have to have a trellis. You have to have a structure, a schedule, and a set of practices to undergird your life with God. It won’t just happen in the busyness and craziness and insanity of our lives. We have to intentionally put it in there.
I’ve been on this journey of slowing down for two or three years now and, don’t get me wrong, it is hard. I live in a city. I have a smartphone. I travel. I’m raising three kids. I work a demanding job. It is hard in our day and age to live this way. But all of the really good things in life are hard, and it is worth every scrap of effort and intentionality.
So let me leave you with the invitation that Jesus gives us in the gospel of Matthew:
“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)
John Mark Comer lives, works and writes in Portland, Oregon, and is the Pastor for Teaching and Vision at Bridgetown Church. This article was adapted from the transcript of a talk given at The Meeting House in Toronto. Used by permission.