Spiritual slowdowns for a fast-food culture
Everything must be done quickly. We are the inventors of fast food. We drive in the fast lane, and we fret over which grocery checkout line is fastest.
Yet could it be that our hurriedness is actually a spiritual danger? Is our frantic and frenetic pace preventing us from connecting with God or checking off the things on his to-do list for us (Ephesians 2:10)?
Two recent books highlight the problem of “hurry sickness” and discuss ways Christians can slow down their lives and reconnect with God’s rest.
Kevin DeYoung. Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2013. 128 pages. $11.99
Kevin DeYoung, blogger and minister, tackles the everyday busyness that plagues the life of the average church member. In his book, “ Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem, ” DeYoung discusses the numerous activities that fill our lives, including packed work schedules, children’s sports and lessons and time spent engaging with technology. Ultimately, he argues, busyness is a manifestation of our pride.
“Pride is the villain of a thousand faces,” and it often is manifested through our desire to please others, receive pats on the back, prove ourselves or gain prestige, DeYoung writes. Instead, he argues, we must ask ourselves a simple question about our activities: “Am I trying to do good or to make myself look good?”
DeYoung wants us to model our lives after Jesus. Yes, Jesus was incredibly busy. Mark has Jesus moving “immediately” from place to place — almost running to do ministry. But Jesus created priorities in his ministry.
“Jesus knew the difference between urgent and important. He understood that all the good things he could do were not necessarily the things he ought to do,” DeYoung writes, arguing that Christians need both a Mary and Martha work ethic. We should work as diligently as Martha while also focusing on learning from and relating to Jesus as Mary did. It isn’t wrong to be busy. It simply is wrong to let busyness overwhelm what is most important — our relationship with God.
The only thing lacking in this book is a deeper discussion on how to draw closer to God besides just spending time in prayer and reading. A deeper reflection on spiritual disciplines would have been helpful.
Alan Fadling. An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Rest. Downer’s Grove, Ill.: IVP Books, 2013. 198 pages. $15.
In “ An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Rest ,” Alan Fadling approaches the problem of busyness in relation to ministry and ministers. Fadling works as a spiritual formation and leadership training coach for ministers. As he examined his own life and the lives of those with whom he works, he noticed that busyness plagues ministers and robs them of their joy for ministry.
Fadling makes his confession on the first page in the book: “I’m a recovering speed addict — and I don’t mean the drug … In fact, there is little incentive out there to slow down. And the pace in the church doesn’t seem all that different from the pace in the world around us.”
Fadling argues that learning to slow down is a practice that takes time. We must become “unhurried apprentices” at the feet of Jesus. He points to Isaiah 61:3 to highlight this need: “They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.”
As followers of Christ, we are called to remain rooted in God, growing in grace and mercy and extending it to others. Yet, Fadling contends, growing into an oak takes time to develop. An acorn doesn’t become an oak tree overnight. Fadling challenges us: “Do we take the same long view of growing in Christ and helping others to do the same?”
According to Fadling, the practice of slowing and aligning with God is really about growing, and it isn’t easy to do. It demands that we reevaluate our definitions of success and spiritual growth.
Maybe, Fadling contends, spiritual growth is less about knowing more and instead is about letting God prune our lives and our ministries so that, over time, we bear more fruit.
Each chapter finishes with a section of “Unhurried Time,” a set of questions and reflections that the reader should dwell upon in order to put the ideas into practice. These questions would serve as a wonderful guide for a small group or a mentoring relationship.
Both of these books challenge a pervasive problem in our culture and challenge us, as Christians, to follow the example of Jesus: to extend ourselves in ministry to others, but also to take time to connect with God and with friends and family through unhurried rest.
DANIEL McGRAW is community minister for the West University Church of Christ in Houston. His life is about to get busier because he and his wife, Megan, are expecting their first child in April.