The Great Enemy of Spirituality in Our Day…

Dallas Willard once called hurry the great enemy of spiritual life in our day.
And said, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from you life.”
from “Unhurrying with A Rule of Life: The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry”
John Mark Comer (October 27, 2019)

hurry is enemy of spiritualOn the way to a retreat in Houston, I “made the most of time” by listening to the podcast [linked above] by John Comer on our need to tame the hurry in our lives.  The message is part of a larger series on developing a rule for faithful living.  (Googling around has me seeing a book he’s just released, entitled The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World.)

As I am in the homestretch of preparing for an online course on such a “rule,” my thinking was along the lines of “let’s see what he has to say… and how it might inform my own work.”

The irony, of course, is that I was working to fill every nook and cranny of my morning… on the way to a retreat aimed at creating space and silence/stillness — room to listen to myself and neighbor and life and God.

Here, I’d pause for a promotional message or two:

Listening (I mean really taking in Comer’s words) was a perfect set-up to my coming downtime.  (Amazing how God can put something so needful in our way – even when we’re busy chasing something else!)  The retreat was all the more meaningful, more deeply embraced – as Willard’s words echoed in my heart and soul: “hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day.”

There was plenty of other stuff that percolated and simmered in Comer’s discussion.  I loved his quoting Bill Gates–that “busy is the new stupid.”   Or more seriously, there was his citing the conclusion of Michael Zigarelli’s 5-year, worldwide study of “obstacles to [spiritual] growth”: it may be the case that (1) Christians are assimilating to a culture of busyness, hurry and overload, which leads to (2) God becoming more marginalized in Christians’ lives, which leads to (3) a deteriorating relationship with God, which leads to (4) Christians becoming even more vulnerable to adopting secular assumptions about how to live, which leads to (5) more conformity to a culture of busyness, hurry and overload. And then the cycle begins again.

But, what stuck with me (beyond Willard’s words), what stood out was his reference to Ruth Haley Barton’s, “Ten Signs You’re Moving Too Fast Through Life”:

  • irritability
  • hypersensitivity
  • restlessness (when you try to rest)
  • compulsive overworking
  • emotional numbness
  • escapist behaviors (alcohol food, binge-watching)
  • disconnected from identity and calling
  • hoarding energy
  • not able to attend to human needs
  • slippage in our spiritual practice
                                                                                 –adapted from Ruth HaleyBarton,
                                                Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, pp. 104-06

Here, I can’t help but think of so many (myself included) – particularly amidst the hustle and bustle of another Christmas Season.  (Oh, how we’ve lost and neglected Advent and its call to creative waiting.)  Some of us: restless, overworking, slipping in spiritual practices.  Others: irritable, neglecting human needs, seeking escape.  The season amplifying our natural (or, rather, our unnatural) inclinations.

It has me wondering about you, dear Soul…

  • do Willard’s words make sense? do they resonate within?

  • and Barton’s “signs”: which are you experiencing?

  • what might you need to drop or let go of these days, these weeks, this month, the coming year?  (Spiritual formation, you see, is as much a matter of subtraction as it is addition!)

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