John Mark Comer: Should We Stop In The Name Of Love?
Inside This Episode
Has a global pandemic been a welcomed break from the busyness of everyday life? Over the years, we've warned people about the intoxicating nature of money, sex, pride, anxiety, and shame, but we've failed to alert people to the most popular gateway drug of our time: busyness. Pastor and author of "The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry" John Mark Comer warns that constant distraction and hurry are the greatest threats to our spiritual and emotional health. According to John Mark, hurry is incompatible with love, and if God is love, hurry prevents God from truly transforming our souls. Eric and John Mark suggest that this COVID-19 moment could be our best chance to declare independence from the soul-sucking busy-ness we sold-out to years ago, and they offer simple, practical ways to reject chronic busyness and to embrace real life and real love.
"HOW DO YOU LET GOD DO A DEEP WORK OF HEALING AND TRANSFORMATION IN YOUR SOUL IF YOU LITERALLY CAN'T PAY ATTENTION BECAUSE YOU'RE CONSTANTLY SCROLLING ON YOUR PHONE, DOING EMAIL, LIKING ON SOCIAL MEDIA, SHOPPING, AND FEELING INSECURE AND ANXIOUS?"
- JOHN MARK COMER
The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World, John Mark Comer
Woman: Mommy and Daddy got really hungry last night we ate all your candy. It's all gone.
Kid: But not eating. [screaming] No.
Eric Huffman: I love a good prank, especially when it comes at the expense of our slightly entitled children. Every year around Halloween, I always look forward to watching Jimmy Kimmel Live just to see how this year's crop of angry kids reacts to the annual "Mommy and Daddy ate all your candy" prank.
Kid: We hate you. We don't love you anymore.
Woman: Jimmy Kimmel told me to do it.
Kid: No, thank you.
Eric Huffman: Kimmel's prank proves just how much kids love sugar. And that inspired me to find out just how dependent kids and adults have become on other things like electronics, especially when everyone's been stuck at home avoiding COVID-19 since March. So I sent a video message to some of the families at my church and asked them to sit down and watch it together.
Hey there, Story family, hope you guys are doing well. Listen, I know the past couple of months have been extremely challenging on the home-
For the health and well-being of our community, I asked them to join me in a challenge, five days without any electronics, including our iPhones, tablets, computers, video games, and everybody fell for it, which just shows how little some people at my church really know the pastor. Anyone close to me would know that I wouldn't last a day without my devices.
Starting now, all the kids of The Story, Houston will be unplugging from all their electronic devices. Parents, we will join the kids starting this weekend. But kids y'all can lead the way on this. And other kids from The Story, including mine are joining in.
Woman: I uses to like him.
Eric Huffman: So go ahead and turn those devices in to your parents-
Woman: I used to like him.
Woman: Shh, listen.
Eric Huffman: ...your mom, your dad at the end of this video. I want to thank you in advance for your participation.
Kid: No, we have to-
Eric Huffman: Parents, thank you for enforcing this in your houses.
Woman: So what do you think about that?
Kid: I think, how about no.
Woman: Go turn him in. Let's turn him in. It's only for a few days
Kid: [inaudible 00:02:18] that I need to do. I still have some stuff I need to do in there.
Woman: No, I-
Kid: No, I won't go.
Woman: Okay, what about you guys? Do you feel like you're gonna go...?
Kid: I'm still doing electronics.
Woman: You're still doing electronics?
Kid: I'm not following any rules.
Will: I'm gonna do it.
Woman: Great job, Will.
Woman: You don't think you could do it for five days?
Woman: Why not?
Kid: I'm not doing it?
Woman: Don't you think it will be good for everybody?
Kid: No, I'm not doing it.
Woman: You're doing it?
Man: No, I can't do it. I can't just turn my damn phone off.
Kid: We don't have to, Mommy. It's not the law.
Woman: I think we do. He's the pastor of our church.
Kid: But he's not the president.
Kid: He's not our boss.
Woman: If someone sends you a text, you can respond.
Man: I don't think that's how it works.
Woman: No, I mean, was that like a prank or something?
Kid: Oh my god. What?
Kid: It's a joke. It's a joke.
Woman: What? I'm sorry, Pastor Eric. In like you again. That was really awesome.
Woman: Guys, this is a joke.
Kid: How dare you? I'm not doing that.
Kid: I'm not doing that.
Kid: I'm not doing that.
Kid: Mommy, delete that.
Eric Huffman: Today on Maybe God, we all know something is off, something about the way we're living, the nonstop frenetic pace of life, the countless hours spent staring at screens. We know it's not good for us. But what are we supposed to do about it? Our guest today shares a grave warning with us about the choices that we're all making. He claims that for most of us, distraction and hurry are the two greatest threats to our spiritual and emotional health. And he suggests that this COVID-19 moment could be our best chance to declare independence from this soul-sucking busyness we sold out two years ago.
This is Maybe God
Eric Huffman: You're listening to Maybe God. I'm Eric Huffman. "I've been so busy, I didn't even notice that I stopped praying over a year ago." "I have three kids under the age of seven, and I can't remember the last time I felt really connected to them. Things have been so busy." "We got so busy, it's like we couldn't even see how our marriage was coming apart at the seams." These are just a few examples of the messages that members of my church have sent me over the past year. Can you relate to their frustration, to their regret? How often do you feel the pressure to perform and produce every day at work or at home, in social settings, including on social media, and just about everywhere else?
We fear being unproductive. We fear raising unproductive kids. We're terrified of not being seen. FOMO is a real thing. Which is why whenever you ask somebody how they've been doing, their answer is almost always busy. And if they haven't been keeping busy, it's almost a red flag, like something's got to be wrong with them.
Over the years, I've given thousands of talks about the meaning of life and what dangers we should avoid. I've warned people about the intoxicating power of money, sex, pride, greed, anger, anxiety, and shame. But in my rush to sound these alarms, I fear that I failed to alert people to the most popular gateway drug of our time — busyness.
Living in a state of constant distraction and hurry it accelerates all the other self-destructive behaviors that I've been warning people about. I can't pretend I'm some kind of expert when it comes to slowing down either or when it comes to unplugging from our devices or when it comes to getting enough rest. Honestly, this topic is a weak link for me. That's why I invited today's guest, John Mark Comer, author of The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, to help lead our conversation.
John Mark learned the hard way how our pathological busyness and addiction to technology impact our relationships with each other and with God. That's why he's now on a mission to tell the world about the dangers of the chronic busyness that nearly destroyed him. I first heard about John Mark Comer five or six years ago when he was a rising star who had planted a fast-growing church and Portland in his 20s
[clip - John Mark preaching]
John Mark Comer: Hi, it's great. How are you guys doing? You're awake again? It's so good to be with you. Holy cow...
Eric Huffman: We pastors are people too, so I confess that when I learned of John Mark Comer has tremendous success, I was more than a little envious. I googled him, hoping that he was really ugly or that he had some kind of sordid past to level the playing field. But of course, he looks like Bradley Cooper, and he's got a spotless track record.
[clip - John Mark preaching]
John Mark Comer: What's your name?
John Mark Comer: Sabrina?
John Mark Comer: Are you single, Sabrina?
John Mark Comer: Oh, notice the delay. The delay. That's like... Does the guy sitting next to you know that? Does he think you're his girl plan? You don't know. Yeah, there's a high five. I'm just saying. If you change your mind, I am a pastor. Quiet down, quiet down or I'll marry you up too. Genesis-
Eric Huffman: John Mark started his ministry at age 23 when he co-planted a church called Solid Rock on the outskirts of Portland.
John Mark Comer: First year, church planting was really hard, but the most fun I've ever had. Second year of church planning was really hard, but still really good. Third year was just really hard. Fourth year, I was dying.
Eric Huffman: The church grew by 1,000 people every year. And by age 28, John Mark had become the lead pastor of a megachurch with over 6,000 members in multiple locations all over Portland. By his own admission, he was in over his head.
John Mark Comer: You can live off of adrenaline and ambition for so long but they are not the engine of the kingdom of God. They are not the easy yoke. They are not what lead you to the deep waters of self-giving love and joy and peace. So two things kind of happened. I had my normal kind of, you know, millennial pastor burnout story that is honestly a common trope. I don't even need to share it with you. Planted a church, it went really well by American metrics. I burned out and couldn't handle it emotionally.
The sub-story to that is that the deeper crisis, what I would call kind of an existential crisis, not a faith as much as of spiritual formation, where my kind of experience of following Jesus... I grew up, my father's a pastor, so I'm second-generation church leader, been following Jesus as long as I can remember. But my experience was kind of through my teen years when I really started to own my spirituality with Jesus and college and my 20s. I felt like year over year I was more in tune with the reality of Jesus in me and around me and becoming more like Jesus and more about what Jesus was about.
And then when I hit my mid-20s, I felt like I just hit this plateau. Like I kind of stalled out in my growth. The moment that my discipleship to Jesus hit deeper layers of sin in my life, deeply ingrained habits of sin that were literally in my body at a cellular level, what scientists call your automatic responses, for me things like sarcasm or criticism or anger that are multigenerational sins. And all of a sudden the kind of evangelical, and I don't mean that as a slam, but formula for following Jesus that I grew up in of kind of read your Bible and pray in the morning and go to church on Sunday where you hear sermons about the Bible, and then kind of go do it. And then we would say in the power of the Spirit, but nobody ever taught me what that meant. Like, yes in the power of the Spirit, I agree, theologically, but what does that mean when I want to lust after a woman or I want to yell at this person, or I want to watch a dirty movie, or I want to spend money that I shouldn't spend? What does "rely on the spirit" mean in that moment? It never went beyond cliché for me.
It's just like I felt like I was banging my head against a wall. It's just I was not growing. And then when the stress of leadership and life was put on top of that, I actually felt like I started regressing, not progressing, but becoming less like Jesus, not more like Jesus. And then the kind of pastoral crisis was, oh, wow. It hit me like a ton of bricks that my church was full of people like me. And that was a bad thing. Full of people that were in love with Jesus and were a disciple of Jesus, but had hit a certain level of maturity and had stalled out. And it wasn't because they didn't want to change or weren't trying to change — because none of us knew how,
Eric Huffman: What's happening at home during that time? Like how bad or stressed out did that situation become with your wife and your kids?
John Mark Comer: Basically, I have three kids at that point. You know, they're all pretty little, my marriage was kind of difficult from the very beginning. I mean, I have an incredible wife, but we have polar opposite personalities, different family of origins, different even kind of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. So a lot of tension in the marriage. And children as they're getting older are, you know, there's at a psychological level, you become more and more annoyed by your children as they get older. Nobody tells that except sitcoms, but it is a reality.
So I'm basically realizing that I am angry, critical perfectionist that's leaking out on my family. And I don't want to be this person, I hate this person, I don't theologically agree with this person, I know what the Bible says about this way of being, and I can't change.
Eric Huffman: Wow.
John Mark Comer: And if I don't change, my wife and I are both mature enough in Jesus, we'd stay married, but it'd be a dead marriage. And my kids would most likely grow up and want nothing to do with me and likely nothing to do with Jesus in the church because that was what made dad so grumpy all the time.
Eric Huffman: Wow. Did any of your friends or elders at the church call you out on this at any point?
John Mark Comer: You know, I'm sure they did, but the problem is, I didn't listen. You know, people regularly said, "You need to take it easy. You need to just relax." But I just did not listen. I was too obstinate, too driven, too ambitious, too much ego. I think the main way it came out in our church leadership was just a lot of conflict. And we never had like a church split per se or some moral failure or something like that. No, it's nothing scandalous,. But lots of arguing and lots of relational conflict.
Eric Huffman: I think what you're saying I think it's representative of a reality in a lot of our churches where even the language you just used, you said, "We didn't have any moral failing. I was just never taking a Sabbath." You know, like-
John Mark Comer: And how do we not view anger as a moral issue-
Eric Huffman: Exactly.
John Mark Comer: ...or ego as a moral issue or pride or...? Yeah, absolutely. Call me out on that 100%.
Eric Huffman: Well, that's mostly about what our culture values, right? And I think that comes out in how-
John Mark Comer: I didn't have sex with anybody other than my wife or steal money, therefore, I'm okay.
Eric Huffman: Right.
John Mark Comer: They need to set the bar a little higher than that.
Eric Huffman: Exactly. No pastor ever gets fired for skipping Sabbath and we never get held accountable the same way. And it's not called a moral failing. You're just called a hard worker. Like you almost get high-fives for it.
John Mark Comer: You're rewarded for it. There's a race.
Eric Huffman: The concept of Sabbath is rooted in the Old Testament in the book called Exodus. After God liberated the Hebrew slaves from their captivity in Egypt, He gave them a new paradigm for surviving and thriving in the desert together. One of the rules God put in place was that every seventh day should be a day of rest, a day when no work gets done.
The Hebrew word for Sabbath is Shabbat, which literally means to rest from labor. It's pretty wild to think about God mandating a whole day of rest for the whole community. And it gets even weirder when you look at the science that supports the Sabbath rhythm of life. For example, a recent study conducted by the University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands found that workers who don't observe a Sabbath day are much more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and mental illness, and are more likely to retire with disabilities.
The notion of Sabbath rest isn't just for Jewish people either. Christians also believe that six days on, one day off is part of God's perfect will for us. Which is why you would think that pastors would be setting an example for our congregations. But so many pastors are awful at self-care and setting boundaries, which is really sad because it's our lack of balance and boundaries that lead so many pastors to burn out or to act out in self-destructive ways. Through all of this, did you come to a moment where it all fell apart?
John Mark Comer: There wasn't a moment where everything fell apart. There was just a moment of, I can't keep living this way. There's a gift in your early 30 in that you have a decade of kind of adulthood under your belt, which is about enough time to chart a little bit of a trajectory for your spiritual formation and who you're becoming. When you're in your 20s, human nature feels very plastic. You feel very open and malleable, immutable. You have this sense of like, I can become anyone. I could become the next famous thing or I could make it, or I can become a millionaire, or I can marry my dream spouse. And then what 20-somethings don't realize is that feeling goes away and it's replaced by "Dang, this is who I became," you know?
Like every day you're becoming someone. This is what all philosophers and theologians and neuroscientists all agree, that every decision you make has a cumulative effect to make you and you become more free or more in slavery, more on a trajectory to heaven or to hell. I mean, many great Christian theologians have said, Whatever heaven and hell are, they just seal the trajectory that you've been on your whole life.
So all that to say there's a gift where in my early 30s, I could kind of imagine, Okay, if I keep living this way, this is who I'll become. And when I went through that exercise of just envision yourself in your 50s and 60s and 70s, it was terrifying. Man, I was just beyond burned out, and I knew that if I did not radically overhaul my lifestyle, I wasn't going to become someone that I was trapped. My own soul would become a prison.
Eric Huffman: The line between prison and liberation can be so thin sometimes you can't even see it. My friend Tom is a faithful husband and devoted father. He's extremely intelligent and he has enjoyed tremendous success in his career. Even though he's well into his 50s, he's in better shape than many guys half his age. He's the kind of man that most men hope to become. But even great people like Tom are not immune to the dangers of busyness.
Tom: I come from a family of hard workers. You know, my dad was literally a rocket scientist. Mom was a very dedicated elementary school teacher. I grew up a child of the 80s where the thing you wanted was the BMW, the American Express gold card, and the fast lane and whatever was in it. Right?
Eric Huffman: Michael J. Fox.
Tom: Michael J. Fox. So when I came out of school, it was very much about, you know, getting the best job possible. In the 80s, of course, that was a finance job, banking, accounting. So came out of school with a lot of ambition and really just started working like a beaver the day I graduated from college. My drug of choice was work.
Eric Huffman: When did you develop that habit?
Tom: High school.
Eric Huffman: Really?
Tom: Yeah. If you're trying to fill a hole with powder cocaine or bad people, then you're a delinquent. If you're trying to fill a hole with really hard work and honor and being richer or better than the kid down the street, that's seen as competitive and a good idea.
Eric Huffman: Right.
Tom: And so it is a socially acceptable drug.
Eric Huffman: Tom graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1984, and by the 90s, he was helping move one of America's biggest banks online. For more than 30 years, Tom climbed higher and higher up the corporate ladder of the banking world, at one point running a team of 1,700 people. Was there some kind of an emptiness that led you to pursue this life?
Tom: As a high school sophomore, I lost a best friend. He died of cancer. And if I had to be honest with myself, I tell you, the hole I've been trying to fill in for a long time was probably the sudden disappearance of who was literally a brother from a different mother.
Eric Huffman: Wow. Not just a classmate, a best friend.
Tom: A best friend. Inseparable. The best friend had a dad who was also very ambitious, who became a role model for me. You know, perhaps tying the two together, losing the best friend now, in some ways, kind of carrying on, never to replace him, but to do the honor for his family that I know that he would have done himself working very hard and trying to be successful.
Eric Huffman: Wow. Tom married his college sweetheart in his mid-twenties, and by their mid-thirties, they had a daughter. Do you have any memories of like an aha moment when you realized that this wasn't the life you wanted to be living?
Tom: I begin to recognize the imbalance. As a technology leader, I was responsible for keeping systems up and we were walking through the turnstiles of Universal Studios in Orlando, and I was on the phone trying to figure out how to get a web server up. It was a major bank, and the little security guy at the booth took my phone away. Like, "You can't have that." And he's like, "I'm taking it and he's yelling into my phone. Welcome to Universal Studios, to the chagrin of everybody trying to get the web server up." My wife just sort of looked at me like, really?
Eric Huffman: Oh, man, that's bad. You're on vacation.
Tom: We're on vacation, right? The one that did it for me, my dad had passed away and I was in the town car on the way between the memorial service and the gravesite and I was on the phone trying to figure out how to get mortgage processors in their chairs.
Eric Huffman: Did you feel it in the moment or was it after the fact?
Tom: I felt it in the moment. My mom says to me, Your dad would be so proud of you that you're working so hard. He would have respected this." And I'm like, "No."
Eric Huffman: Wow.
Tom: "No, I don't. I don't respect that anymore. My priorities are in the wrong place."
Eric Huffman: How dark did it get during that season?
Tom: Darkness, but with a sense of light because I knew I had the opportunity to change it.
Eric Huffman: Do you remember the workaholism impacting your relationship with your wife and daughter, or were they cool about it?
Tom: I think they got used to it. You know, there were times where there'd be some grousing and I'm like, "Well, do you want to pay for the house?"
Eric Huffman: Right.
Eric Huffman: That's always a fun conversation.
Tom: It shuts everything down pretty quick. It's like, "Well, no, but I sure would like to have you here." I used it as a time to kind of rekindle the relationship with God. And I began to get the feeling that it was just time to do something else.
Eric Huffman: What did you do?
Tom: This was a time during the financial crisis. You had a, you know, major growing company, one of the best companies on the planet but there was just an awful lot of pressure. And I said, "I think I should take a step back and either do a sabbatical or something else. One night I just... I walked around the house a lot at night because I couldn't sleep. And I just said, "I have no idea what to do. It's yours, not mine. You gave me the job in the first place. I trust you. You will, not mine."
Eric Huffman: A few days after he prayed that prayer, Tom found a new, less intense role at the same company. Instead of a team of 1,700 people, Tom would be leading a team of 30. His colleagues thought that he was crazy. But that didn't stop Tom from accepting the job. So I'm struggling with something with this episode, Tom, that I'll be honest with you about. With everybody that I'm talking to in this episode, the story is kind of the same way you grew to become very successful, probably somewhat financially comfortable. And it was out of that position that maybe the decision was easier to make to scale back or to work for others instead of yourself.
Eric Huffman: And I wonder if you would talk to me about what in retrospect, you would change about the past if you could? Would you change anything about how you built your reputation and platform that gave you the freedom to make these changes?
Tom: It's a good question. I think the relationships are important and I think your motivation is important. So I found now in my current position, my focus is on the people who work on my team rather than on me and my own needs. I think if I were doing this again, I think I would be just as successful if I'd focused on others rather than me.
I want everybody on my leadership team to find success, all my peers, all my leaders. It's about how do we find collective success rather than how do I necessarily have the spotlight? It works great. When I took my current job, one of my filters was, Can I live my faith in this job? In fact, during the first interview, I was asked, what's most important to you in this job? And I said, "The most important thing is to be able to live my faith." And if that's not okay or if that's not going to work here, I certainly understand and I appreciate your time."
Eric Huffman: What did he say?
Tom: He said, "Let's keep talking."
Eric Huffman: Really?
Tom: Right. So at the very beginning, I had the understanding as I went into this position that this isn't going to be about mindless pursuit on behalf of myself. This is going to be a job where I could, in fact, serve others and be okay with that. So I think if I had done this earlier in my career, I, in fact, would have perhaps lived a richer life. Wow.
Eric Huffman: With a slightly different definition of richer.
Tom: Yeah. Yeah.
Eric Huffman: Today Tom is a senior executive for a regional bank. He has 400 people reporting to him but he says he'll never fall back into his old patterns of work. He told me he'd quit before he let that happen.
I just wonder what you would say to somebody who's trying their best to be successful and working their tails off, but they're just not finding it.
Tom: The old me now would look back in the younger me and say, At the end of the time, you're not going to really measure by what you have in the bank. It's going to be how many friends and the love you experienced amongst the people you're with. If you drop dead because you have some kind of stress-related disease, your wife really won't care how much you made.
Some of the best moments I've ever had cost nothing. So I would encourage you not to overinvest in things that might seem important. Every time you look at your bank account, look at the relationship account and the emotional connection account, and the spiritual account because those are a lot more important and it's probably a lot easier to overdraw them than you realize.
I would say the second thing that I would tell them is you've got to trust in God. And when you think you need to be in control the most and that you'll come back to it once you finish whatever it is you're working on, that's the time you really ought to say, I release this work to you, it's your work, not mine. Because of the times in my life that I've done that, it's always been the ones that turn out the best.
Eric Huffman: Really?
Tom: Yeah. If you try to hold on too tight, that's when it'll slip away.
Eric Huffman: John Mark made a similar move to radically overhaul his life. His dream was to slow down and simplify by resetting his metrics for success and becoming more of an apprentice to Jesus. So he demoted himself from lead pastor of the entire megachurch to teaching pastor of one of its campuses in downtown Portland. That campus is now called Bridgetown Church. John Mark says he's no longer counting how many people show up on Sundays to hear him preach. He's also been in therapy ever since he decided to slide down the ladder of success.
John Mark Comer: By the grace of God, I don't have some like deep wound from my family of origin. I'm really grateful for my mom and my dad and the family I grew up in. My wounds are more self-inflicted of my own, so there's a perfectionism in me that goes so deep that drives me to obsessive-compulsive behavior or to workaholism, to ambition and ego because everything has to be better, everything has to be perfect. We did this Myers-Briggs training with our staff years ago, and at the end of the training, they give you like a little one line, a sentence summary of your personality type. And mine was "everything has room for improvement."
Eric Huffman: Wow.
John Mark Comer: Everything has room for improvement. I have room for improvement. My wife, my children, my home, my church, the world. And there's a healthy side of that where I'm constantly calling us into the future of the kingdom of God and beauty and rightness. But there's so much shadow in that because we live in a world that is so far from perfect, it's not even funny.
Eric Huffman: John Mark knew his perpetual pursuit of improvement was killing his soul, but a new job description wasn't enough to set him free. What he needed was a whole new paradigm.
John Mark Comer: I listened to a long-form interview with Jim Collins, that business writer on his excellent, and at one point he said, "Every knowledge worker or creative, their work all revolves around one central question." And I immediately knew what mine was. It's how do people change, and specifically, how do we become more like Jesus?
Eric Huffman: Wow.
John Mark Comer: So that's really my question. And some of that is my own, like why is it so hard for me just to be calm and relaxed and nice? Like, why am I so perfectionistic? Why am I so uptight? Why is just reading the Bible and why does it not change me at the level I want?
So that's a long way of saying, as I began to really lead into that in our church, into spiritual formation and spiritual practices and creating space to slow down and let Jesus do a deep inner work of healing and freedom in your soul and who you become, my pastoral experience was that the number one push back problem and obstacle was busyness and hurry and overload, that people were too busy and too exhausted to really make space for any depth of interior life and long term transformation.
Eric Huffman: And the church was just making them busier, right? Like we're just piling on.
John Mark Comer: Exactly. Church is often just one more thing. So that's where it came out of my own personal, Wow, Look what the phone's doing to me. Look what Harry is doing to me. Look what busyness is doing to me." And then my pastoral like, "Oh, wow, the main thing holding our church back from a full life in the kingdom of God is hurry and digital distraction. So I got to work toward this."
John Mark Comer: For those of you thinking, what should I do on the day? Well, first off, you're type-A. Just calm down. There's not to-do list. There's no like check, check, check, check, check. There's no, like, thing on your wall or whatever. It's a day for stopping.
There are essentially ten best practices for a Sabbath. It's the lighting of candles and prayers of blessing. It's feasting. Like you can't Sabbath and do keto or gluten-free. It's just doesn't work. We just rebuke that spirit in the name of Jesus. All right? You need all in. Bread, wine, fat, everything. There is a reading of scripture or a poetry or of liturgy or of spiritual truth. There are singing, lovemaking. In the Talmud in the section on marriage, there's actually a command for couples to make love every single Sabbath night.
Some of you married couples are just like, Okay, Sabbath, all right. Like, "Sweetheart, it's Sabbath." Right? Okay. Walking is a beautiful, just an afternoon stroll, napping is a key best practice. A nap is a great way to place your trust in God with all of your body. My lovely wife will literally sleep in until nine or ten on Saturday morning and then by two, she's like, "Nap time, honey. See you in a little bit."
Time with family and close friends, time alone in the quiet, it's a key part of it. Gratitude. It's really a day to cultivate gratitude, to thank God for what you have rather than think about and focus and buy and shop and pursue what you do not have. It's just basically a day to stop, to rest, and to thrive foremost in God and then in your life with God and His world.
Eric Huffman: Today John Mark writes and preaches messages that help people fight what psychiatrists are now diagnosing as hurry sickness, which experts describe as a behavior pattern characterized by continual rushing and anxiousness and overwhelming and continual sense of urgency. His latest book is intended to slow his readers down. And oddly enough, it was released just a few months before COVID-19 forced all of us to slow down. It's called the Ruthless Elimination of Hurry.
I think it's awesome how God has taken all of that hell-on-earth kind of experience you were starting to go through and turn it around into this book that's going to help so many people and already has, including myself. But I think it's also kind of ironic a little bit that you had to be who you were to build what you built, to have the platform that you wrote from.
John Mark Comer: I don't know that it's irony. I think that's the grace of God and the human condition, most people's greatest contribution comes through their sadness, failure, and disappointment.
Eric Huffman: Amen.
John Mark Comer: It's like, "Yeah, I wish that I could just be here," and I'm like, "No, I'm this super happy megachurch pastor who's just done everything right and let me give you..." But I wouldn't be help to the world. That's not real life. That's not where any of us live. None of us live in a failure-free life, no matter how hard we try.
Eric Huffman: I think a lot of people because it's so normal to be so busy and distracted all the time now, a lot of people think I'm just a regular person. I'm a hard-working, responsible person who pays my bills. How does someone know if they have what you call hurry sickness?
John Mark Comer: Things like irritability where you're quick to like jump on somebody. And not like necessarily somebody at the grocery store or your boss, but people that you feel at peace with. So that would be your roommate or your spouse or your children or family members where you don't have that pro-social self where you're kind of like put on a show. Irritability, for sure.
Emotional sensitivity. It'll take a little thing to kind of set you up. Escapist behaviors, which is different for everybody, whether it's Netflix or shopping or excessive email checking or excessive news reading. Slippage in spiritual practices, where the very things that should be the first thing you go to morning prayer or Sabbath or church on Sunday are often the first things to go when we get over-busy.
Things like forgetting kind of who you are and what you're called to do. Your life becomes more and more reactive rather than proactive. Restlessness where you actually do try to sleep or take a day for Sabbath and you can't calm down. Like you have to check the email, turn on the TV, you have music going, or do something, you have to check in with the office. You can't actually rest because your body is sped up to this pace where it's like a drug, and so slowing down and putting away technology is almost like you're... not almost. You are literally experiencing withdrawal symptoms in your brain and in your nervous system. So stuff like that are just symptomatic of, oh, wow, maybe I'm moving way too fast through life.
Eric Huffman: How many of these symptoms of hurry sickness can you see in yourself on a regular basis? I see them all. Irritability, check; escapism, check; slippage in spiritual practices, big check. And the worst part is feeling like I can't stop myself. Most days I feel powerless to cut back on the number of meetings on my calendar or the demands on my time.
And as a coping mechanism. I spend a sizable share of time every day turning off one device and turning on another phone, TV, phone, laptop, phone, iPad, phone, Apple Watch, phone again. Now, in my defense, there's a lot to keep up with. I've got emails to write, then I've got to check Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to see what's going on in the world. Got to check CNN to see what the liberals are mad about today. And then I got a check Fox News to see what the conservatives are mad about.
By the time I'm done checking the news, I've got to go back to social media to find out what my friends are saying about the news I just read. And then back to my email to see if the people that I wrote have responded yet. It's a cycle, a vicious cycle that has no end, and it always leaves me feeling absolutely empty.
I know that a certain amount of busyness is unavoidable, but the kind of busyness that so many of us are struggling with feels more pathological every day, and it's only getting worse. Before reading The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, I wondered if I'm just imagining that escalation or if it's a real phenomenon.
John Mark insists that the escalation is really happening. And to illustrate it in his book, he goes back seven centuries to the year that historians call a turning point in humanity's relationship to time. 1370 was the year that the first public clock tower was built in Cologne, Germany. Before that, time was natural. You went to bed with the moon and got up with the sun. People typically slept 11 hours a day and were much less concerned with productivity.
But when tools for tracking time entered the equation, we stopped listening to our bodies and we started listening to our alarms. And we became more efficient year after year. And in the centuries that followed the invention of the clock tower, other inventions followed suit that promise to save us time and to make our lives easier. But in reality, they just made us busier.
With each new invention that brought more efficiency, we became a little less like human beings designed to live as much as possible and a little more like machines designed to produce and consume as much as possible.
John Mark Comer: Paul Mazer of Lehman Brothers famously said this in 1927, quote, "We must shift America from a needs to a desires culture. People must be trained to desire to want new things even before the old have been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality in America. Man's desires must overshadow his needs." This is the beginning of the business idea that we now know is planned obsolescence or why we want a new iPhone every single September.
Eric Huffman: But the real escalation happened in 2007, the official launch of the digital age. Remember this?
[clip - Steve Jobs]
Steve Jobs: John Mark Comer: What we want to do is make a leapfrog product that is way smarter than any mobile device has ever been and super easy to use. This is what iPhone is.
Eric Huffman: On average today we touch our phones 2,617 times a day. Everything on the iPhone, every app is designed to hold your attention. We are not the consumer of these devices. We are the product being sold and our attention is what's for sale.
John Mark Comer: They say we see upwards of 4,000 advertisements a day. All of them are designed to stoke the fire of desire in our belly. Buy this. Do this. Eat this. Drink this. Have this. Be this. Own this. Go here. Go there. Social media, of course, just takes this problem to a whole new level as we live under a barrage of images, not just from the advertising wing of whatever product company, but from the rich and the famous, as well as just from our family and friends. There is a multibillion-dollar marketing industry with direct access to your heart through the little computer in your front right pocket that is all designed on purpose to fan into flames your desire and make money off of your restlessness.
Eric Huffman: You said in your book, Satan, in our portrayals of him, usually looks like a mean dude with a pitchfork, and maybe he really looks like-
John Mark Comer: Will Ferrell playing rock heavy metal music.
Eric Huffman: Right. Maybe he's really notifications on your iPhone.
John Mark Comer: Yeah.
Eric Huffman: Like, what are the spiritual implications of that, though? What do you see in terms of people trying to follow Jesus constantly distracted by notifications?
John Mark Comer: I quote that theologian in the book who says, "The modern world is a vast conspiracy against the interior life." And then I quote Ron Rolheiser, my favorite Catholic writer, who says, "We are distracting ourselves into spiritual oblivion." You literally cannot have a life with God if you cannot concentrate on what you cannot see for long periods of time. So how do you pray, how do you let God do a deep work of healing and freedom and transformation in your soul if you literally can't pay attention because you're constantly scrolling on your phone and doing email and liking in social media and shopping and feeling insecure and anxious and comparison and feeling covetousness? Like how in the world.
So yeah, I mean, I just think the spiritual implications are enormous. The first step in following Jesus is learning to turn your attention toward God in prayer. You can't even start that process until you decide to make a fairly what most would consider radical, which I think is just common sense, but break from technology as it is normally used.
Eric Huffman: And what's at stake is our very identity. And not just like our eternal salvation, but like this lived salvation-
John Mark Comer: Present salvation.
Eric Huffman: Oh, yeah. And you talk about how hurry is incompatible with love. And if love is who God is, as we believe as Christians, and if love is what God calls us to and hurry is incompatible with love, hurry is incompatible with God, we're talking about a massive issue, a massive stumbling block.
John Mark Comer: Mm-hmm. I mean, that's the basic thesis of my book if I had to put it in one sentence. Hurry is incompatible with love.
Eric Huffman: And even for nonreligious people, everyone wants to love and be loved, right?
John Mark Comer: Yeah.
Eric Huffman: You don't have to believe to want that. And if we're saying that hurry for anyone is incompatible with love, it has implications for us all. What are those implications for unbelievers, for people that are skeptical about God and stuff? Just in our human relationships, how is hurry incompatible with loving human relationships?
John Mark Comer: Well, I mean, there's this saying in the parenting literature back in the 90s that love is spelled T-I-M-E.
Eric Huffman: It's so good. It's so good.
John Mark Comer: It's so true. You know, every parent knows that it's true. Every kid who didn't have that knows it's true. Love is the capacity for time, it's a capacity to pay attention deeply to someone in compassion, not in judgment, and it's the capacity to give yourself away for the good of another. Love is, of course, a very common word and everybody is down on love. But when you define love, a lot of people are actually down on have love. And you define it as agape, as Jesus defined it as self-giving to will the good of another ahead of your own.
So, I mean, of course, as a deep ache in the human condition, religious or not, Christian or not, to both love and be loved. But the problem is even though most of us would all like that idea, the question that I'm asking is, how do you become that kind of a person? And even slowing down isn't some silver bullet to where it is schedule less things and all of a sudden you'll become agape like Jesus. And that's where the Christian doctrine of salvation needs to be seriously weighed.
Salvation, in the English word, comes from the Latin salve, as in an ointment you put on the wound. So "[terios?]" the Greek word is translated save and heal. So when you read that Jesus saved somebody and then a paragraph later you read that Jesus healed somebody, you're reading the same word.
Eric Huffman: Yeah, bro.
John Mark Comer: My deep conviction is that we need salvation from outside of ourselves to heal our soul. And self-help is great, it's not enough. Podcasts are awesome, I do a lot of them, they're not enough. Reading books, getting a therapist, going to yoga, it's all great, I'm all for it, it will not save your soul to the degree that we ache for. And so how do we say yes to Jesus healing of our soul?
Eric Huffman: Well, we have to say yes to love and love takes time. Right?
John Mark Comer: Time.
Eric Huffman: Stop. There we are again. I can't decide if we don't like to slow down or if we've simply forgotten how. Either way, we're all guilty of not slowing down long enough to really love the people closest to us, to love them with our presence, with our attention. In a strange way, COVID-19 has been a hidden blessing to many of us. As tragic as it's been, the pandemic has at least forced us to slow down, to stay home, to reflect, and to reconnect with our families, our kids, our spouses, and our friends. But it shouldn't be lost on us that it took an unprecedented pandemic and total shutdown of our economy to wake us up and slow us down.
Eric Huffman: Amy is in her early thirties and a member of my church. She and her husband are both relatively quiet and soft-spoken people. But recently I overheard Amy sharing part of her story with a group of people at The Story Houston, and I was blown away.
Amy: My family called me the Fainting Goat. I don't know if you've ever seen those goats that just fade and they just pop right back up. That was me. Every neurologist that I would go to would say that I was this medical mystery, which never makes you feel good. They eventually diagnosed me with basilar migraines, which is a migraine with a loss of consciousness.
Eric Huffman: Amy was put on a cocktail of medicines but she continued to blackout a few times a year and suffered multiple concussions from those episodes. It didn't stop her from graduating from college and becoming a local TV news reporter, working 13-hour days, some days, and then moving into a career in marketing. At 31, Amy met Jeremy on Match.com and they got engaged just five months later.
Amy: So we got married in November of 2015 and January of 2016, I had my 10th recorded concussion.
Eric Huffman: Wow.
Amy: I passed out in the shower, based on phone calls. I think I was out for about 20 minutes. One of our dogs woke me up.
Eric Huffman: You were home alone?
Amy: I was home alone. It was in the morning. It was before work. After that, my health just declined rapidly. You know, at that point, I had only been passing out about four times a year. And then all of a sudden, I passed out up to ten times a day.
Eric Huffman: Wow.
Amy: And we still thought that it was the basilar migraines. I had multiple MRIs, but no doctor could slow it down. I was bedridden.
Eric Huffman: For how long?
Amy: For about seven months?
Eric Huffman: Whoa.
Amy: Starting that March?
Eric Huffman: Seven months. Gosh, that's got to be terrifying.
Amy: Jeremy was so worried about leaving me home alone because every time that I would get up to even go to the bathroom, I would pass out.
Eric Huffman: Amy's parents lived just a mile down the road from she and Jeremy, so every morning Amy's dad would pick her up after Jeremy left for work, and he would bring Amy back to their house where he'd keep an eye on her.
Amy: I would stay there and work, and he would bring me peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We would watch TV together.
Eric Huffman: That's awesome.
Amy: He would hold my head up so that I wouldn't hit my head whenever I passed out.
Eric Huffman: Obviously, in the moment, I'm sure it felt awful, like your life was passing you by. I don't want to say hell on earth, but you're 32 and you know, you're probably looking at social media or hearing from friends, and how dramatically different your life was compared to them must have been in your face every day.
Amy: I was a very independent woman before I got married, and I took pride in making my own money, taking care of myself. Then all of this happens and I am newly married and I am forced to rely on Jeremy.
Eric Huffman: Yeah, and your dad.
Amy: And my dad. They were certain that I was dying. There were times whenever I would pass out that they couldn't find a pulse. So we thought that there was only a little bit of time left.
Eric Huffman: Wow.
Amy: But as Jeremy will say, it was the best thing that possibly could have happened for our marriage.
Eric Huffman: Really? Why?
Amy: You know, we still think back about laying in bed and watching Family Feud.
Eric Huffman: I love Family Feud. With Steve Harvey throughout?
Amy: With Steve Harvey.
Eric Huffman: He's the best.
Amy: He really is. You know, he would put on anything that would make me laugh. I mean, I couldn't go anywhere, so we would just lay in bed and hold hands and watch TV.
Eric Huffman: Remember how John Mark said love is spelled T-I-M-E? That can be really hard for us to believe when the time you spend with someone is marked by sickness or some other unfortunate circumstance. Oftentimes, we can only see how love is spelled T-I-M-E when we look back in retrospect. As Amy looks back on the time that she and her dad spent together, she's convinced that it was a gift from God, not just for her, but for her dad as well.
Amy: He would talk about how it was the best time in his life to be able to spend this time with me.
Eric Huffman: Even though it had to have broken his heart to see you suffering-
Amy: It did.
Eric Huffman: ....to be with you.
Amy: You know, he didn't know what else to do but to hold me. And that's all that I needed. I felt like a lot had been taken away from me. Now, looking back on it, I see that more was given to me during that time. Finally, we got to the right doctors by the grace of God. Because doctors were telling me that it was psychosomatic. I started having a whole bunch of doubts about whether this was really happening to me, if this really was my fault, and my insecurities took over. I was ashamed. I felt like no one in the world understood what I was going through.
Eric Huffman: In August 2016, Amy was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called dysautonomia.
Amy: Basically, in a normal person, when you stand up, 10% to 15% of your blood oxygen level goes down to your legs and then immediately pumps back up. After tests, it showed that 70% of my heart oxygen level goes down.
Eric Huffman: There's no cure for dysautonomia. But today, Amy is off all of her meds and she manages it with physical therapy and a healthy lifestyle.
Amy: As of December 3rd, 2016, I have not passed out it again.
Eric Huffman: Wow. Praise the Lord. did you go back to life as normal?
Amy: We all kind of decided that I could not go back to life as, quote-unquote, "Normal." I needed something that was flexible and I needed to slow down my life forever. So I got my real estate license online while I was home in bed.
Eric Huffman: Even though Amy no longer spent every day with her dad, they remained closer than ever before.
Amy: You know, there's not a day that went by since then that we didn't call each other and tell each other that we loved each other.
Eric Huffman: Wow. Really? How long did that go on for?
Amy: That went on until he passed suddenly from a heart attack in January of 2018.
Eric Huffman: Oh, wow. So a little over a year after your last pass-out episode your dad was gone.
Amy: At 65.
Eric Huffman: A young 65. As you look back, I mean, obviously, you must be thankful for that time you had with him, but how do you process, those moments that you had with your dad now?
Amy: So when he died, I had an epiphany that if we could live our lives backwards, then it would all make sense. We just don't have that luxury. Thinking that so much time had been taken from me when I was ill, I realized that God knew what he was doing. And that it was really just one big blessing. Anything left unsaid with my father had been taken care of, and I think that the biggest gift is that I don't have to wonder if he knew how much I loved him and I definitely don't have to wonder if he loved me. And I don't think that many people can say that for certain.
Eric Huffman: Yeah, I promise you they can't. If you ask them to name the greatest blessings of their lives, most people in their early 30s would probably talk about their upbringing or their education or their wedding day, or the birth of a child, or maybe even material things like buying the house or the car they always wanted. But Amy feels certain that the biggest blessing she's been given is a sickness that left her flat on her back and gave her the gift of more time with her new husband and more time with her father. And today, Amy is able to look back and to thank God for that blessing, which helps her now to endure more recent challenges like the five miscarriages that she and Jeremy have suffered and mourned together.
Amy: I am so incredibly blessed to have such a wonderful, adoring husband. I have five babies in heaven that we've started... you know, a family that we've started who's probably they're playing with my dad. He probably has a daycare by now. I mean, how blessed am I!
Eric Huffman: If you could sum up what that time in your life with your dad and with Jeremy taught you, what would that be?
Amy: What really matters is our relationships. I feel like we are constantly misguided by the world to get way too busy, to be on social media. I got this house, but now I need a bigger house. I got this boyfriend, he needs to be my husband, now we need children. Oh, I got one but I need another. There's never going to be an end to that. The only way to find contentment is with Jesus. It's a hard lesson to learn, but it's a wonderful one.
John Mark Comer: What would it take to satisfy human desire? What would it take to ever feel like, Ah, I'm satisfied, I have enough. And the answer he came up with was everything. We would have to experience everything and everybody. And He said, Be experienced by everything and everybody in order to ever feel satisfied. Desire is infinite. And because we are finite, the end result is restlessness. We live with a chronic state of unsatisfied desire.
Then, to make a bad problem worse, this is exacerbated by our cultural moment of digital marketing from a society built around accumulation and accomplishment. Human desire is infinite because we were made to live with God forever in His world, and nothing less than that will ever satisfy us. What Jesus would say is, Listen, put your desire in its proper place on God and all your other desires put them in their proper place below God where you know... it doesn't mean you don't want them, but you no longer need whatever it is, marriage or the job in the new apartment in order to live a happy life.
Eric Huffman: The pandemic has forced us all to slow down, but it's also given us a rare opportunity to assess what really matters and to put our desires in their proper place. But as states begin to reopen and Amazon gets back to a two-day delivery, we're being tempted to return to our cultural norms of accumulation and accomplishment. But are we missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity here to change the world as we know it? What if this is our chance at a do-over? What if this is our opportunity to reject pathological busyness and rampant consumerism and to insist that love is still spelled T-I-M-E?
So if there was ever a time in my lifetime when real-life change seemed possible in a sweeping, sort of more immediate way, this is it. How do you talk to people who are in this moment right now saying, I read your book or I've heard this sermon, what do I do starting now to get my life on track, to be someone who slows down and listens to God?
John Mark Comer: Oh, man, that's so great. I mean, I do think that's the question all of us should be asking. As we start to reenter some minor level of normalcy, what stays, what goes? What do we come back to and what do we not come back to?
Eric Huffman: Exactly.
John Mark Comer: And I would love a whole bunch of us did not come back to the level of chronic exhaustion and over-commitment. I'm teaching on the spiritual discipline of simplicity right now. And so I went and reread all of the secular minimalism literature. If you've ever read any of that, there's this famous story about this guy Ryan Nicodemus, about how when he got into minimalism, he literally boxed up his entire house except for the major pieces of furniture. And then he restarted everything, like, what do I bring back? And what do I need in my house? What's thoughtful? What actually makes a difference? And what makes sense and isn't just excess or waste or a distraction or more hurry in my life? And he began to slowly repopulate his house with items. And then he had all this crap left in his garage and then he just got rid of it.
Eric Huffman: Wow.
John Mark Comer: That's the most extreme way to kind of minimize or simplify your life. All that to say this is kind of like that moment for all of our life. It's like our whole life went in boxes for the last two or three months.
Eric Huffman: Right.
John Mark Comer: And so now it's like, all right, now we're going to start kind of moving back in. What do we put that? What do we repopulate our life with? What do we... Like, nope, that stays in the box. And I'm going to give that away to goodwill. So as far as where you start, dude, there's no right answer to that. I think basic principles start where you're at and not where you should be.
If Sabbath is too big of a start for you, then start with a four-hour time block or whatever you can do. Say every Sunday after church for 4 hours, I'm going to turn off my phone and just take a nap and eat lunch with my family. Morning prayer, an hour every morning is great. But if you're brand new to Jesus and can't pay attention, or you have a one-year-old and you're locked up in your apartment, then just try to start with 15 minutes or 10 minutes of quiet before you look at your phone. Or if you wake up to your kid crying and just try to sit there in bed and recite Psalm 23 or the Lord's Prayer in your mind and just turn your heart over to Jesus before you get little Johnny out of the crib.
Just start where you're at and then begin to start to put in place some limitations around your phone. Self-imposed, self-generated. I got a bunch of ideas in the book. Andy Crouch's is great book, The Tech-Wise Family. Make your own list, but start to put something in place. If that phone goes off at 8:30 p.m. or no notifications or whatever. Just start somewhere. Put some limitations around your phone or it will take over your whole life.
Eric Huffman: Do you think there really is a practical way for Christians to live in this world with a phone in our pockets, with these devices and things, and still be faithful? Have you seen it?
John Mark Comer: I mean, I think yes, but it's very hard to do.
Eric Huffman: Are you trying to straddle those worlds?
John Mark Comer: Yeah. I keep almost getting rid of my smartphone. I want a phone that basically does podcasts for my runs, Uber to get to the airport, and maps and text messages and nothing else.
Eric Huffman: You had me until text messages. I don't want those either.
John Mark Comer: Yeah, that's true. I always say I don't want them but then I think about having to, like, call ten people back every evening. I'm like, This doesn't sound great either, you know? So I still have a smartphone, I have a very in-depth and rigorous digital rule of life and all sorts of things from I've turned it into, for the most part, a dumb phone. It's grayscale as zero alerts, zero text message alerts. Nothing comes up. I don't look at it till 11 a.m. most days. I do text message bundling where I do text messages twice a day. There's no email on my phone. No Twitter on my phone or Facebook on my phone. I turn it off once a week for 24 hours for Sabbath. It's all the way off. It goes off at 8:30 every evening, it doesn't sleep next to the bed. I don't look at it till 11 a.m. So I have this rule of life.
Now sticking to the rule of life with a device that is literally engineered to distract me and addict me, like I'm trying to use it in a way that it was not intended to be used, that's a whole other... I'm not nearly as awesome as I sound.
Eric Huffman: Right. We're all doing the best we can, man.
John Mark Comer: There's a purist to me that just wants to throw it out and go living in a cabin. But part of me wonders if there's an incarnation of pain that we just have to be a part of the world. No, the Apostle Paul, He manipulated the Roman legal and road system to do something with it that was the opposite of what was intended. Spread the gospel instead of to spread violence and control and taxation. So I think we want to use technology something like this, a Zoom call and a podcast, to subvert some of what it was actually intended to do well to bring deep relationships and gospel truth to the world.
Eric Huffman: I think the one image from this episode that's going to stick with me for a long time is Tom taking a work call from inside a hearse with his father's casket in tow. It's a cautionary tale for all of us. I know if I'm not careful, that could be me one day at my dad's funeral, God forbid. Or it could be my kids at mine if I don't show them a better way to live now.
But I feel like I'm so deep in this life that I'm living, this distracted, hurried life. I don't know how to do it. I don't know how to change. Where am I supposed to start? If that's where you're at today, I want you to know there really are simple, practical ways to reject chronic busyness and to embrace real life and real love. The Bible offers this framework we call the Sabbath six days on, one day off. Maybe that feels unattainable to you. Maybe you can't afford right now to take an entire day off of work every week. Or maybe you're just not willing yet to go offline for 24 hours straight. That's fine.
But maybe you could just start with 6 hours a week. Surely you can afford to schedule the same six-hour timeslot on the same day of every week just to get off the grid, to turn off your phone, to stay home with family or maybe your friends, and just to slow down and rest. And whenever other obligations or opportunities encroach upon your six-hour Sabbath, you simply say no.
Another powerful tool in the fight against hurry sickness is prayer. You may be intimidated by prayer. You may not think you know how to do it. Even though I'm a pastor, I find prayer extremely intimidating, which is why I've gotten into the habit over the years of writing my prayers down instead of just speaking them aloud into the air. Every morning I write a one-thing prayer, that's what I call it, a one-thing prayer that fits the same model formula: One thing I'm grateful for. One thing I'm sorry for. One thing I'm asking for. And one thing I'll try to do today to share God's love with somebody else.
I try to keep it short and sweet, and sometimes I fail miserably at the whole enterprise but ideally, I start the day with this simple prayer, even before checking my phone or writing that first email, even before making breakfast. And when I do, I usually find that this one intentional act is powerful enough to transform my whole outlook for that entire day.
In the foreword to John Mark's book, John Ortberg wrote, "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." I think we all see that danger, and I pray that we all avoid it. In one simple, small way today, I hope you'll choose to slow down, to stop skimming the surface, to stop worrying about the things you don't have, and to embrace the people you do have. I pray that we all choose to live the lives that God has given us.
This episode of Maybe God was produced by Julie Mirlicourtois and Eric and Geovanna Huffman. Our new associate producers are Andrea Gentle and Kat Brough, and Shannon Stephan and Justin Mayer are our talented editors. Please don't forget to leave us your glowing reviews on iTunes or Apple Podcasts to help more people find Maybe God. Thank you.