Her phone dings. There is a Slack notification and messages from her daughter demanding to be picked up earlier than planned. She pours some coffee then notices an email from her boss. It looks like he scheduled a last minute meeting to discuss “important developments” in her department. The meeting is in an hour. She checks the time.
Her phone rings. It’s her husband. He sounds distraught. A knock on the office door interrupts her conversation. “Joey just quit,” says the voice on the other side. “What do you want us to do?”
“I’ll be right there,” she replies. “Honey, let me call you right back,” she tells her husband. Her body tries to catch her mind as she hurries to the door.
Her phone dings.
I think we all can relate to this lady. Life is moving at incredible speeds and we don’t know how to push the breaks. We’re not sure where the off ramp is or that one even exists.
The truth is, busyness and hurry has infected our lives like a plague. Not only can it cause physical and mental illness, it can also cause real damage to our spiritual lives.
Dallas Willard called hurry the great enemy of the spiritual life. It makes sense. The busier we become, the more likely we are to miss the reality of God. Our schedules, to-do lists, demands, emails, meetings, and notification after notification can easily derail our intimacy with the Lord.
In his book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, John Mark Comer provides some tools to help God’s people slow down. Similar to Willard, he believes hurry is an epidemic distracting us from God and making us sick.
In the book, Comer claims “the mind is the portal to the soul, and what you fill your mind with will shape the trajectory of your character. In the end, your life is no more than the sum of what you gave your attention to.” I’ve also heard it said “you become what you behold.” So, what are you giving your attention to?
After providing some history of how our world came to this constant state of hurry, Comer offers four practices to help us slow down and refocus our attention on Christ. The practices or rhythms are not new. They are simply spiritual disciplines.
First, silence and solitude. Jesus was known for his observance of this practice. Throughout the gospels, he retreats to quiet places, usually mountains, to be alone with the Father. If Jesus needed silence and solitude, how much more so do we?
Comer encourages the silent retreat. It could be a day, a weekend, or perhaps an entire week. The point is to be alone, without the buzz of technology, to encounter the living God. All it takes is a quiet space with the Bible and your prayers. Some of the best lessons from the Desert Fathers, according to Comer, came during their moments of silence and solitude.
Second, the practice of sabbath. The word sabbath comes from the Hebrew word shabbat, which literally means “to stop.” After reading Comer’s book, my family is attempting to take sabbath observance to the next level. We’ve been shutting off our technology at six o’clock in the evening. For twenty-four hours we only do things that involve worship, rest, or delight. I love riding my bicycle, reading, or taking a nap during sabbath. I might watch a movie with my daughters or plan something outside.
During sabbath, we find that Sunday worship gatherings are more meaningful. When we meet friends in the lobby, we’re less likely to pull out our phone or think about what we’re doing for lunch. In some cases, we invite our friends to join us for lunch. Real conversations happen. We connect with God and others. It’s refreshing.
The third practice of Comer’s is simplicity. My wife and I are minimalists. We love shedding stuff that hasn’t been used in several seasons. For Comer, getting rid of clothes in his closet allowed him to live more simply. He mentions the freedom he found in limiting his wardrobe to a few outfits. He also mentions the simpler lifestyle he found in walking or riding his bike to work. Simplicity can be a real gift to your walk with Jesus.
Lastly, the practice of slowing. By slowing, Comer means intentionally doing things that slow down the pace of your day. He encourages his readers to stand in the longest lines at grocery stores, drive the speed-limit, and walk with a slower pace. By intentionally slowing, you’ll find more opportunities to connect with the heart of Christ. You can pray for the clerk while waiting in the grocery line. You can practice being present with a friend while slowly walking together.
I enjoyed this section a ton. I love practicality. Comer provides lots of “next steps” to help his readers eliminate hurry from their lives.
Not all my readers will appreciate John Mark Comer’s writing style, let alone his theology and approach to ministry. He’s a contemplative leader who finds meaning in nature, art, and culture. His book is written in popular lingo which will bother some intellectual types. Comer does, however, cite lots of books and thought leaders which should satisfy the nerd in the room.
Don’t allow Comer’s hipster language or appreciation for the monastic movement to distract you from his larger truths. I believe we can learn from those who see the world differently than us.
I would recommend this book to believers who are genuinely seeking more of God’s presence. It is possible to slow down and experience more of God. Don’t you want that? I know I do. Praise God if Comer’s book helps many to that end.