An Unhurried Life is a Life Lived in a Series of Moments

Let me paint the picture for you.

It’s 8 pm. The dinner is over, the homework is done, and it’s time for the kids to put on the pajamas, use the bathroom, brush their teeth, use the bathroom, read the books, and use the bathroom. And almost nightly, there’s me – the dad – losing my patience.

“Get a move on,” I say.

“What are you supposed to be doing right now?” I say.

“What did I tell you to do 15 minutes ago?” I say.

Now I’m not saying this process isn’t frustrating; I think anybody with a couple of offspring can tell you that it is. And if it only happened at bedtime with my kids, it would be less of an issue. But at least for me, this is only one of the situations in which I find the same attitude in myself.  It’s the same attitude that makes me unable to focus on a conversation with a co-worker. It’s the same trait that keeps me from lingering with friends over dinner. It’s the same characteristic that pushes me on to what’s next regardless of what’s happening now.

I hurry.

The thing that’s behind my hurry is, more times than not, an inflated sense of self-importance. My relaxation is more important than the kids bedtime routine. My to-do list is more important than the conversation that needs to happen at work. My rest is more important than engaging deeply with friends. I hurry, and when I hurry, my mind and heart are focused on the next thing. I am constantly looking toward what’s going to happen next, and because I am, the goal in the present is to get through it as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Oh, sure, I can easily mask this self-focus with claims of prioritizing greater things or the demands of a busy schedule, but in the end it’s really about me. In the end, my hurry is fueled by an unshakable (and inflated) sense of my own importance.

I, in recent days, have longed for an unhurried life. A life lived not looking to what’s next but instead focused on a series of moments. A life that is free from the bondage of that self-importance that drives onto whatever’s next and is instead able to be fully present in a given moment with a given person. The question is how do I (and maybe you, too) get there. I’d like to offer a few very practical suggestions:

1. Look the person in the eye you are engaging with. Our posture betrays our focus and priorities. Chances are if you are not focused on what’s happening in the moment, you body language will betray you. But if you make a conscious effort to actually look a person in the eye as opposed to shifting your gaze from them to your computer screen or TV or something else, your heart will follow.

2. Ask for more time. Hurrying often comes when we try to squeeze in an interaction on our way to another. But if indeed you find yourself in a situation in which you cannot fully devote yourself, don’t try to squeeze someone in. Instead, graciously ask for more time. It might seem rude, but it’s actually far more polite to explain that you have to finish something but in five minutes you will be able to fully engage. Then finish it, and fully engage.

3. Consider the God of the Moment. It’s his name, afterall. God’s name, Yahweh, is literally translated something like, “Be.” Or the “Is-ing” One. Or the God who is. He’s not the God who was; nor is He the God who will be. He is the God who is. And thank God He is, because it means that He’s not doing the things that we typically do in our hurried lives. As we are casting our burdens upon Him, as we are pouring out our hearts to Him, as we are talking, laughing, praising, and crying to Him, He’s not thinking about when He can get onto the next prayer. Wondrously, miraculously, God is not overwhelmed by the multitude of those who approach His throne of grace daily through the mediation of Jesus. Instead, He is patient, displaying His great grace in every muddled, badly articulated, rambling interaction one of His kids has with Him.

An unhurried life is a life lived in a series of moments. That’s what I’m going after today, though it’s probably going to take me a while to get there.

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  • P. Shrier says:

    Totally relate to these concepts. I find that a lot of times it is selfishness and not urgency that draws me away. I want to go sit on the couch or go back to my desk instead of engaging. Change my heart, oh God!

  • Aaron Mitchell says:

    Wendell Berry would be proud! Let’s linger the next time we gather together and have a stare down contest. Thank you for your words.

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