My spiritual director laughed when I told him I’d preordered this book.
He knows me well. He wouldn’t have been surprised by how overloaded I felt just last Thursday, or how often my schedule feels out of control. It’s probably the greatest threat to my spiritual health and my effectiveness as a pastor. He wouldn’t have been surprised that a friend booked lunch with me recently to express concern about my busyness.
A busy pastor is a lazy pastor, said Eugene Peterson. Yes, I know. But I’ve got to run. I’ve got an appointment coming up.
I’ve read so many books on margin, productivity, restoring balance, and more. I’ve taken courses. So when my spiritual director laughed, I laughed too. Another book? Really? Could there be a more ironic title given the condition of my life?
The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry is written by John Mark Comer, pastor of Bridgetown Church in Portland. I appreciate that this book is written by someone in a place like Portland. If you can conquer hurry in a place like that, there’s hope for all of us.
Comer is someone I’ve grown to respect. I love his podcast with Mark Sayers. I suspect that we’re members of slightly different theological tribes, but I like him.
The book is broken into three sections.
First: the problem. I didn’t need this section to be very long. I can just look in the mirror. “All my worst moments as a father, a husband, and a pastor, even as a human being, are when I’m in a hurry,” he writes, “late for an appointment, behind on my unrealistic to-do list, trying to cram too much into my day. I ooze anger, tension, a critical nagging—the antitheses of love.”
Second: the solution, in which Comer argues we don’t just need more time. “The solution to an overbusy life is not more time. It’s to slow down and simplify our lives around what really matters.” Comer calls us to learn from Jesus and take on his easy yoke (Matthew 11:28-30).
Third: Comer offers us four practices for unhurrying our lives: silence and solitude, Sabbath, simplicity, and slowing. This is where the book becomes very practical, and it’s where I’ve struggled in the past. To unhurry means to take specific, costly, countercultural steps, like reducing digital distraction, spending more time in silence (no podcasts, audiobooks, or music!) and solitude, living out of Sabbath, paring down our possessions and our quest to buy more, and deliberately moving at a slower speed in life.
Three Simple Goals
“I’ve reorganized my life around three very simple goals,” Comer writes:
- Slow down.
- Simplify my life around the practices of Jesus.
- Live from a center of abiding.
Comer pastors a large church and lives in a major city. He’s not immune to the pressures that shape our lives. He hasn’t conquered the problem. “Multiple times a day, I slip back into hurry. The gravitational pull is overwhelming at times.” But he keeps coming back to the same practices and goals.
If your spiritual director or friend would laugh at you reading this book, you probably need it as much as I do. Taking this book to heart may be one of the most helpful things you do.
You can read an excerpt here.
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