Confession: I have a terrible issue with pacing myself. There. I said it.
I am always on full throttle. I talk fast; I walk fast, I pretty much do everything fast. Adjusting to the pace of others who move more slowly than I actually causes me pain. This is particularly problematic because I have four small children, and for the life of me, I can’t seem to control their pacing. They can be soooooo slow. It makes me a nervous wreck.
I am not alone.
In her book, “Speed: Facing Our Addiction to Fast and Faster-and Overcoming Our Fear of Slowing Down”, researcher and psychologist Dr. Stephanie Brown explores how American society is now dominated by beliefs, attitudes and ways of thinking that elevate the values of impulse, instant gratification and loss of control to first line actions and reactions. In other words, we’re addicted to speed.
Orthodox Christians are not exempt. In fact, when the Faithtree team was researching topics relative to men during the creation of The Pursuit, we found that our guys can be particularly vulnerable to the inner pressure and chronic stress inherent to the rush for progress. And our clergy and men in lay ministries feel the pressure just as strong, if not stronger.
Author and pastor John Ortberg tells of time in his ministry when the pace he kept was so frantic he called a mentor for help and spiritual direction. He was desperate for a change. After describing the crazy rhythm of his life, he implored his friend to shed insight on what he needed to do to be spiritually healthy.
After a long pause, his friend just stated: “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”
That was it. That was the entire pearl of wisdom he got from his mentor on how to be more spiritually healthy. Slow down. Way down.
I have a sneaking suspicion most of us could benefit from taking that same advice. I know I certainly could.
Why eliminate hurry?
Why do we need to reject the fast-paced craziness that has become so commonplace? If you want to follow someone, you can’t outpace them, right? So, if our goal as Orthodox Christians is to know and follow Jesus Christ, we simply must consider His pace.
Although He was often busy, He was never hurried. He never went about the busyness of His ministry in a way that interfered with His relationship with His Father, or His ability to love those in front of Him.
This issue of hurry certainly isn’t a new problem. We can’t blame it on globalization, technology, or anything else unique to our day. In St. Mark’s Gospel he tells the disciples struggling with the same fast-lane pacing.
“…for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.” (Mark 6:31 KJV)
For many of us, we see the chaos as a badge of honor; as if being the most tired, the most depleted, the most drained means we’re the most dedicated, hardworking and passionate. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Jesus understood this. He so often withdrew from crowds. He taught the same to His followers. In fact, in the very same verse from Mark, Jesus says,
“Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while…” (Mark 6:31, KJV)
He knew that calm, solitude and prayer were essential to spiritual well-being. And we really can’t do those things (meaningfully, anyway) in a rush.
How do we eliminate hurry?
My husband says it like this: “You know honey, the only way to stop is to just, well, stop.” But somehow in the frenetic, driven, “come-on-guys-let’s-go-buckle-up-we’re-so-late” world I’ve created for myself, I forget that I get to choose the level of chaos I will engage in.
So how can we actually choose to slow down or even stop the hurry?
1. Understand the costs of speed addiction
We live under a weight of demands, real and imagined; that is debilitating. Stress disorders, fragmented thinking, obesity, depression, learning disabilities (developing in people of all ages) and negative changes to our thinking and attention are growing fast. Our relationships are becoming as fragmented as our thoughts. Internal chaos eventually ensues and for most of us, we can’t concentrate on anything. Speed addiction is killing us physically, mentally and spiritually.
And as far as our spiritual health is concerned, participating in this kind of pandemonium is a slippery slope. Our greatest danger may not be rejecting or renouncing our faith, as many might think. Our greatest danger may instead be that we become so distracted and hurried and unfocused that we settle for a mediocre, superficial and disconnected version of it.
2. Intentionally interrupt your current pace.
Behavior can be the hardest thing to change, especially when habits have snuck up on us and have become cemented in our daily routines. Unless we choose to alter our behavior with focused intention, chances are, we’ll revert to our old ways soon enough.
Try interrupting your impulsive behavior. See what it feels like to turn your smartphone off for an hour. Use business strategies like �?batching’, even in your spiritual pursuits. Take time each day to sit in silence before the regular onslaught begins. Pray.
None of us are inoculated against the pacing of today’s world. The need to be efficient and instant is all around us. Rejecting that pace won’t happen on the first, second, or even fiftieth try. So keep practicing! If one way of slowing down doesn’t work, try another. Seek counsel from your priest, a mentor, or other trusted person. The idea is not to be perfect. The idea is to be in pursuit of a different way than the world.
4. Look to the perfect example.
How did He do it? Jesus often sought solitude. (see Mark 1:35,
Luke 11:1-4) He lived simply. He chose to separate Himself from the frantic, distracting mayhem of an unorganized life. His focus remained on His Father. And it allowed Him to be intentional.
His life was not hurried.
Now more than ever, we must strive for the same.
Michelle Moujaes is the Executive Director of Faithtree Resources.