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Not long after moving to Chicago, I called a wise friend to ask for some spiritual direction. 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."

He is the wisest spiritual mentor I know. While he doesn't know every detail of every grain of sin in my life, he knows quite a bit and can probably guess the rest. And from an immense quiver of spiritual sagacity, he drew only one arrow.

I've concluded that my life and the well-being of the people I serve depends on following his prescription, for hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. Hurry destroys souls. As Carl Jung wrote, "Hurry is not of the devil; hurry is the devil."

For most of us, the great danger is not that we will renounce our faith. It is that we will become so distracted and rushed and preoccupied that we will settle for a mediocre version of it. We will just skim our lives instead of actually living them.

Hurried sick

One of the great illusions of our day is that hurrying will buy us more time. I pulled into a service station recently where the advertising slogan read, "We help you move faster."

But what if my primary need is not moving faster?

Time magazine noted that back in the 1960s, expert testimony was given to a sub-committee of the Senate on time management. The gist was that due to advances in technology, within 20 years or so people would have to cut back radically on how many hours a week they worked (or how many weeks a year they worked), or they'd have to start retiring sooner. The great challenge, they said, would be figuring out what to do with all the excess time.

Yet 30 years later, not many of us would say this is our primary time challenge. We seem to have no excess time.

Consequently, we buy anything that promises to help us hurry. The top-selling shampoo in America rose to the top when it became one of the first to combine shampoo and conditioner in one bottle, eliminating the need for all the time-consuming rinsing. Domino's became a name in pizza because they promised to deliver in 30 minutes or less. ("We don't sell pizza," said their CEO. "We sell delivery.")

USA Today reports, "Taking a cue from Domino's Pizza, a Detroit hospital guarantees that ...

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John Ortberg is editor at large of Leadership Journal and pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in California.

From Issue:Energy & Joy, Fall 1998 | Posted: October 1, 1998

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