Hectic Pace (unfinished, from 10/5/2011)
One of the common problems that members of my congregations cite is the hectic lifestyle so many people experience today. Yet, when trying to compare that with an alternative, they fall short. Not only could they not think of an alternative, they cannot conceive of ministries to help people reach one. This, I think, is one of the core life issues for people the church needs to respond to, for the quality of one’s life is denigrated by the speed with which so many of us live it. The old cliche is to “take time to smell the roses,” and it holds a great deal of truth.
(From a November 29, 2004 entry in my journal – edited for this post)
Seven years later, and these words strike me as just as powerfully true and needed today as they did then. In these intervening years, in both charges I have served – Armstrong/Dunlap in Illinois, and Song of Life in Arizona – I have run one series on slowing down the pace, drawing from Kirk Byron Jone’s book “Addicted to Hurry.” Yet I, as do many of our church members, still feel the crunch of deadlines and the hurry that permeates our lives.
On Facebook today I was alerted to a TED talk on limiting stuff and living in smaller space. There was nothing particularly novel in the presentation, but it remains an important lesson that we seem to need to learn. My perception of the talk leads me to reflect that perhaps just as we take the amount of space we have and then over-fill it with stuff, so we do with our time: whether it be personal time or professional time, we overfill it. We attempt to fill our time with more “stuff” than it can contain; but, in this case, we can’t send things off-site for storage!
I am not the only one to recognize that we are over-booked, over-committed, and over-whelmed. It is, by far, the modern norm – and one that I believe the church needs to share a viable alternative to.
Remember Jerry McGuire? Part of the midnight epiphany that led to his Catcher In The Rye-like assertion to pursue “less (agents), less money…”, Jerry also discovered a means to greater meaning. (He also discovered a young Rene Zelweger, but I digress!)
I wonder: do we fill our lives with stuff and activity because we are lacking meaning?
Are we unable – or just unwilling? – to stem the tide of cultural and social pressures? And what does an alternative look like? It is much easier to reflect on what it is like to live with less stuff, or in smaller space. But to reflect on being less hurried, less committed, less busy… I’m unsure. What does that look like?
Perhaps The Academy For Spiritual Formation gives me one image of such life, but it is clear that weeks in the Academy are obviously an exception for participants, and not the norm. A slower life balancing study, work, prayer, and reflection after the example of monastic communities is, by its nature, difficult to achieve outside of a cloistered community!
As I reflect on this, I wonder: what alternative to the hurried and hectic pace of life today have you experienced? How do you think the Church can speak to helping people create a healthy alternative?