I recently finished John Mark Comer’s book The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry. Let me put it this way . . . Don’t read this book unless you are ready to be convicted. (How’s that for an endorsement?) Seriously, though Comer writes with an engaging and even playful tone, the weight of what he is saying is enough to not only stomp on but shatter your toes . . . in a good way.
The main premise of the book is that we Americans have a hurry-problem. Our modern lives are fast-paced, always-on, and stressed-out. All of this is antithetical to the life and example of Jesus Christ. So often Jesus modeled for us the need for silence, solitude, Sabbath, and even slowness.
Consider this, in your brain you have structures that govern fear and emotions (the amygdala) and structures that govern planning and reasoning (prefrontal cortex). These two structures are connected by a see-saw (figuratively speaking, of course). When the amygdala is active, the prefrontal cortex is less active, and vice versa. The role of the amygdala and related systems is to look for and respond to threats faster than the prefrontal cortex. You are on a walk in the woods and see a brown curvy thing, the amygdala makes you jump away. Then, when you are out of danger, you can examine things with your prefrontal cortex and see it is just a stick and not a snake. Get it?
Now, what happens when we live in a fast-paced, always-on, stressed-out modern world? Basically, our amygdala is ALWAYS ON! It doesn’t matter whether the threat is a possible snake or a possible job loss. It doesn’t matter if the threat is a home intruder or climate change. Your body’s stress response systems react the same, and in this heightened state of alert, energy is being used by the amygdala and not the prefrontal cortex, the very system we need to make plans for how to deal with these bigger, less immediate issues.
However, there are forces at play in the world that do not want you to think slowly and carefully about things. If you think slowly and carefully, you probably won’t fall for the salesman’s lies about “limited time offers” and “going fast, act now.” If you think slowly and carefully, you probably won’t fall for the politicians lies about how the other guy is going to end life as you know it. Fearful and stressed out people are easier to manipulate and control.
As followers of Jesus, we cannot let ourselves get swept up in the current of the world. We cannot allow ourselves to be dragged along in the same hurried and harried lifestyles. Following Jesus’ example, we need to learn how to stop, unplug, and slow down. In doing so, we not only regain our sanity, but we put ourselves in a place to listen to the Holy Spirit instead of the noise of the world.