Slowly learning not to rush
One of the things I enjoy about working with the spiritual formation organization Renovaré is that every member of our small staff adores literature and language. It makes our meetings long, but entertaining. Our writing process is laboured, but rewarding. And where other teams might pass around snacks or office supplies, we trade quotes.
I love the quotes. Truly. Except for two that get bandied about with relentless frequency.
The first one is from C. S. Lewis. I don’t believe good work is ever done in a hurry.
The second quote is from Dallas Willard. Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.
For a long time, whenever I would hear those anti-hurry quotes, I would feel the muscles in my stomach tighten.
"I bet neither Lewis nor Willard found themselves routinely tasked with delivering a truculent toddler to preschool," I would mutter to myself. My offspring are young adults, but I can vividly remember the years of scattered cheerios and harried quests to get out the door and into the minivan.
I had other mental rebuttals too. "What about firefighters?" I would demand of no one in particular. "And do you want an emergency room physician who refuses to hurry?"
I would have rested satisfied with these pro-hurry arguments were it not for something else we are always saying at Renovaré – Pay attention to your resistances. In other words, if something is always getting your goat, your pasture might need tending.
(We also like metaphors.)
You can probably deduce that the reason I bristle at those anti-hurry quotes is because I tend to be in a rush. I chronically overcommit and tragically underestimate the time a project will take. And a stubborn streak of perfectionism means a deadline must be looming – or perhaps already past due (just ask my editor) – for me to force myself to get a project over the finish line. These tendencies often leave me saying (or texting), Sorry. Can’t talk now. In a hurry.
I finally articulated my irritation with the anti-hurry quotes in a staff meeting. "Do you guys really think no good work gets done in a hurry?" I huffed. "I mean, is there anything inherently evil about working fast?"
Our president Chris grinned. "I’m all for working fast," he said. "But here’s another quote – Be quick, but don’t hurry. The great basketball coach John Wooden used to tell his athletes that."
And then, in a long, unhurried conversation, my colleagues helped me see that working swiftly and being hurried are not the same thing.
My colleagues helped me see that working swiftly and being hurried are not the same thing.
Working fast means going as quickly as you can without cutting corners or sacrificing either the quality of the project or the well-being of the people involved.
Hurrying means the opposite – rushing the process, sacrificing quality and often using people like tools or commodities.
Working fast means operating at the upper limits of your capabilities and capacities.
Hurrying is an attempt to exceed those limits or sustain the illusion they don’t exist. It is a fear-driven, futile effort to outrun the normal passage of time – and it leaves the hurrier unable to attend to the present.
Wooden knew that if his basketball players hurried they’d make stupid plays. I concede that in my own life, as hurry intensifies, mistakes increase. Not to mention tension headaches.
So on further reflection I guess I’d rather not have a hurried firefighter or physician. And I don’t want to be the sort of parent, spouse, friend or colleague who is in too much of a rush to be available and truly present.
My patterns of overcommitment and overwhelm are deeply entrenched, so if I’m ever going to learn how to eliminate hurry, I’m going to need some help. I’m pretty sure if you asked Lewis, Willard or Wooden for a shining example of an unhurried life, they would point to their mutual friend Jesus.
They might even quote Him: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:28–29).
Carolyn Arends is a recording artist, author and director of education for Renovaré. Find her new album at www.CarolynArends.com and more of these columns at www.FaithToday.ca/GoWithGod.