Culture teaches us to be fast-paced. We are conditioned to hit deadlines, reach higher, strive further and do more. We squeeze the pound for all it’s worth, squash the hours in the day between work and the gym, coffee on the go and a catch up with that friend we’ve promised to keep in touch with. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se. Personally, I don’t mind the pressure and the pace – I’m driven, passionate and if I’m honest, I thrive under it.
But as driven as I am, I don’t think we were created to live on the fumes of life, so hurried that we live a half-present life. Life half in one place and our minds somewhere else, constantly running late and rushing to the next thing, whether physically hurried, spinning the proverbial plates on the treadmill of today, or whether inner hurriedness, a sense of always needing to do, or be, somewhere else. And dare I say it, our walk with Jesus is the same. Maybe we don’t have time to open the Bible or when we do, we skim and rush to the end of what we’re reading to get on with all we ‘need’ to be doing.
Physical hurriedness can be solved with time management; we can take control of our diaries. But inner hurriedness is harder. Maybe we need to ask ourselves: “Are we truly present in the present?” Do we have the clarity of mind to focus on the sole person or thing in any given moment, be it work, relationships, Jesus or simply watching TV? Do we constantly live in a tension of feeling guilty about the amount of time we spend doing one thing at the expense of another, then when the table turns, we feel guilty in reverse? What if we showed our value to things not just by how we physically spend those 86,400 seconds per day, but by our real-time 100 per cent focus and presence in those moments?
I don’t believe God called us to hurry through life. What if we look at Jesus as our pace-maker? Jesus was 100 per cent passionate, driven and all-in, yet unhurried. He spent time sitting with a woman at a well while his disciples were busy. The result? A whole town heard about him. When a crowd was outraged at a woman sleeping with someone she shouldn’t, Jesus said but a few words and spent his time drawing in the sand. When Jesus heard his friend Lazarus was really sick, the Bible tells us that: “He stayed where he was two more days.”
If it was me, I’d have gone as quickly as I could, concocting plans of what to do in each scenario as I went, because I hurry when I worry. Not anxious worry, but a ‘need to be in control’ or ‘know what’s going on’ kind of worry. Maybe deep down our culture teaches us to be in control. Why else would we check our work emails before bed? Maybe despite saying Jesus is in control, I’m far more influenced – more than I’d like to admit – by a society that says the only person in control of our future is ourselves. I’d have done all within my power to get to Lazarus or to diffuse the stone-throwing mob, but when Jesus hears Lazarus is dead, he says to his disciples: “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.” (John 11:14)
We can easily miss this, but Jesus says he is glad he didn’t make it in time! Yet at the end of the chapter, Jesus says: “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
This narrative of Jesus’ life tells us that Jesus is fully in control and in his pace, even when we don’t see it. I’m not saying we should sit back – let’s strive for more, let’s believe the best is yet to come and do all we can to co-mission with God, but let’s not lose the present moment – each of these encounters with Jesus led to forgiven lives following Him. I wonder how many people we will introduce to Jesus if the clock in our minds isn’t ticking when we talk to people?
I’m trying to be less hurried. More ‘God-in-control’ than ‘I-need-to-be-in-control’. Less hurried, more present.
Maybe the fast-paced life needs a pace-maker: the well-waiting, sand-scribbling, life-giving Jesus. What does it mean to pause and not be inwardly rushed, to be truly present when we’re present?