During our VP3 Webinar: Barriers to Spiritual Growth on Wednesday, I was struck by the panelists’ and audience’s interest in discussing busyness as a chief barrier to maturity in our faith communities. I found myself later in the afternoon returning to the question, what does a busy pace do that so frustrates our maturity?
It seems the relationship of busyness to Christian maturity boils down to the issues of attention and distraction. On the whole, we certainly are busy, busy people. We have meetings to attend, dinners to prepare, children to pick up, papers to finish, vacations to plan, projects to complete, things to maintain and repair, sermons to preach, houses to clean, lunch appointments to keep, on and on. Life presses in on us and, perhaps instinctively, we do all we can to press back. Many good things and important things stack up, and we busy ourselves with such things. In time, these many things shape our schedules and even our consciousnesses into a form that is ill suited to an attentive life.
When it comes to our capacities for a pace that is life giving, people reflect a wide range of differences. Some people move more deliberately and slowly, others simply move faster due to a variety of factors including stage of life or capability or temperament. So there is not a one-size-fits-all prescribed or preferred pace.
What we must pay close attention to, though, is the interrelationship between our pace and our attentiveness. The great danger in all of this is that the pace of our lives squeezes out critical human concerns (e.g. community well being, job effectiveness, parenting children, a flourishing inner life, a God consciousness, kingdom-responsibility). Whether we are Christians or not, we are all vulnerable to living a way of life that fails to pay attention to the most important things in life. A rushed or hurried or frenetic pace most often blurs our attention and causes us to overlook all sorts of things and people.
Projects and papers can be crammed, but relationships cannot. There are many things that we can learn to do more quickly and efficiently, and rightly so. But keeping good company with God and with others requires leisurely time and attention that is not rushed. John Ortberg argues in his book The Life You’ve Always Wanted that “love and hurry are fundamentally incompatible” and that we cannot be in a hurry, with a pace that is so exhausting, and still give of ourselves in our relationships. Ortberg continues,
Again and again, as we pursue spiritual life, we must do battle with hurry. For many of us the great danger is not that we will renounce our faith. It is that we will become so distracted and rushed and preoccupied that we will settle for a mediocre version of it. We will just skim our lives instead of actually living them. (81)
Are we just skimming our lives or are we actually living them?
We must listen for the underlying pace and its impact upon our capacity to live attentively and faithfully with the Lord. Here are a few questions to prayerfully ponder along the way:
What pace do you run at?
Is your pace such that it consistently draws your attention away from what you consider to be the most important things?
Is it a life giving or life draining pace?
What would be required to say “no” more frequently?
Can you grow without hitting the pause button with practices of prayer, reflection, and solitude?
How does it feel to consider “slowing” your pace to give life to more of your days and weeks?