Columnists Mark my words

Column: Don’t be in a hurry to read this


by Father Mark Goldasich

Are you feeling a little tired today? If so, blame Seth Thomas. If you’ve never heard of him, you’ve definitely heard his disruptive invention or its offspring.

Thomas invented the forerunner of the windup alarm clock, which he patented on Oct. 24, 1876. Nowadays, the jarring ring of windup alarms is replaced by sounds with names like By the Seaside, Night Owl, or Twinkle. No matter. The result is the same: to disturb restful sleep. I don’t know about you, but when that alarm goes off, I’m up and running . . . even if only to get to the clock and hit that snooze button.

But how important is rest? This story may help to answer that question.

A man named John Ortberg moved to Chicago to become the teaching pastor of Willow Creek Community Church. Shortly after moving, he called a friend for some spiritual direction.

“I described the pace of life in my current ministry,” said Ortberg. “The church where I serve tends to move at a fast clip. I also told him about our rhythms of family life: We are in the van-driving, soccer-league, piano-lesson, school-activity-night years. What did I need to do, I asked him, to be spiritually healthy?”

After a long pause, the friend said, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

“OK. That’s a good one,” replied Ortberg, with some impatience. “Now, what else?” Since Ortberg had many things to do that day and this was a long-distance call, he wanted to cram as many bits of spiritual wisdom into the least amount of time possible.

There was another long pause.

“There is nothing else,” the friend finally said. “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

Ortberg got the message.

“I have concluded,” he said, “that my life and the well-being of the people I serve depends on following his prescription, for hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. Hurry destroys souls.” (Found in “1001 Illustrations That Connect,” by Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof, general editors.)

Funny, I never considered hurry to be something that destroys souls. But it does.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hurried to get somewhere on time. A few weeks ago, for example, I was heading to a play in Kansas City. The show started at 7 p.m. I arrived at the parking garage at 6:52, circled around to find an empty space, and then had to sprint to get to the theater, arriving with maybe two minutes to spare. It took me a good 10 minutes to finally catch my breath and settle in to enjoy the show. Why was I in such a hurry? Well, I left home later than
I should have and cut things too close. When I arrived at my destination, I was all out of patience . . . and my soul was damaged.

Frequently, too, I’ll rush through my prayers so that I can spend time doing something much more important, like watch another mediocre show on TV. Although I’ve got “no time” to slowly meditate on God’s word, I’ve got plenty for “one more game” of Cascade or The Price is Right Slots. Hurrying through spending time with God hurts my soul.

And how about cramming our lives with activities and commitments like the pastor in the story? Essentially, we’re hurrying to get nowhere that’s all that important.

The solution is indeed to ruthlessly eliminate hurry from our life. That might be as simple as leaving 15 minutes earlier for an appointment or making mornings less hectic by preparing as much as possible the night before.

Or maybe, honestly, we just need more sleep — to give control of our lives to the Lord for eight hours and trust that he’ll keep both us and the world going while we’re conked out.

I’d love to give you more practical ideas, but I’m really in a hurry to get this column done! See, the World Series is on!

About the author

Fr. Mark Goldasich

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