The modern way of work has been accelerated by technology and tools to further increase productivity. Expectations for exorbitant quantities of tasks are expected to be excellent and expedited. Deadlines have eliminated the word relax and there is no excape! (sic) If I could start my years of employment over I would have implemented a secret formula. The secret; Hurry to Unhurry.
Work before play that is what they say. There is much merit to getting a job done first and then relax or have fun with your mind free of worries, afterwards. But, when deadlines loom the pressure builds. Sometimes the anxiety or anger (because you do not want to do the job in the first place) builds up so much that your brainwaves are reduced to static. I found myself stuck in ‘I will never get this finished’ mode last week as I faced completing five PowerPoint presentations.
Business plans, business reviews and sales pep presentations, upon completion, seem so clear-cut and dry. The data I needed to gather all the information however, required many hours of research, sifting through emails, and downloading reports to gather the facts. As I whittled away on each subject matter and transferred the information to all five decks, I could see the clock-twirling non-stop into the evening for the third day in a row. To make matters worse, two drop-everything customer crises occurred requiring me to set aside the slides. Before I knew it, Friday evening had arrived and the Monday deadline seemed ominous. How was I ever going to finish one presentation, let alone all five? It was time to regroup and hurry to unhurry.
My body told me I was seriously wiped out mentally and physically. I went into full body repair for the evening with plans to re-start the computer work in the morning. Out came the exercise plan followed by a long walk in the woods with my dogs providing some physical and eye-site relief. I fired up a hot bath, filled it with spa salts, lit the candles, turned on soaking music, and sipped a glass of wine while washing it down with a gallon of water to flush the system. Falling asleep afterwards took less than a minute to provide a much-needed night of rest.
The next morning I awoke early fully planning to go into full production mode, yes, on a Saturday. But I knew I needed more than to pump myself up to crank out these projects.
I have recently been reading a book by Alan Fadlin titled ‘An Unhurried Life’. It provided a great reminder of the most important secret formula I have been practicing for years. He also hammered a rusty nail into my own mode of production-oriented thinking:
‘Today, many of us have been so conditioned by efficiency that time of sitting on the porch (Avg Joe note – ‘portico’) feels unproductive, irresponsible, lazy, and even selfish. We know we need to rest, but we can no longer see the value of rest as an end to itself. It is only worthwhile if it helps us recharge our batteries only so we can be even more efficient in the next period of productivity.”
Before turning on my computer to resume the project on this particular Saturday morning I headed to the proverbial porch. To set the tone I turned on the gas fireplace, poured a large cup of coffee, and hurried to my chair of unhurry. I needed to clear my mind of the negatives. I addressed the ‘I don’t want to do this attitude’ first. I sought the easing of anxiety and vowed not to get up until it was eliminated. (twice I moved from chair to floor to stretch out the stress in my muscles).
As time was short, I read from my favorite books to gain the mental calmness and creativity needed to move back to the mode of productivity. (normally I would take much longer, but in this case I used past bookmarks). I wrote in my journal the thoughts I needed to get out of my head and through the pen added in ones that needed to replenish the positive.
Amazingly as I fired up the computer my motivation and creativity was in top form. So much so that before resuming the PowerPoint projects I decided to finish a mini-story, which I published last week about Sprinting to Problems. It related directly to some of the negativity thoughts that had been infiltrating my mind. Within a few hours, three of the five presentations were completed. I delayed completion of the other two presentations, to leave room to enhance them. Having a clear mind brought in new motivation. I popped off an email with the suggestions and a request for an extension, which was granted.
I learned one valuable lesson from last weekend’s experience, next time I must move quicker in to the stage of Hurry to Unhurry!
Our market-place experiences are ones we often write off as ‘they a re the way of the world, what do you expect?’ Yet in the church-world, we can often be mis-guided by the same production mentality, if you would like to hear the dangers of not hurrying to unhurry in ministry, enter into the Portico…
(If this is your first time visiting Average Joe’s Portico, please read the Do you Dare tab to understand the shift, tap the red line before you read below and come on back ‘if you dare’)
Continuing with an excerpt from and Unhurried Life Fadling discusses how we can easily fall in to a trap in church activities:
‘When it comes to ministry, it sometimes appears that the goal is to keep people busy with ministry jobs.” This can easily translate into a works mindset that a Christian will become more mature by doing more. The more you do, the more rewards. Fadling references the late Henry Nouwen who suggested a better balance; ‘Ours task is to help people concentrate on the real but often hidden event of God’s active presence in their lives. Hence, the question that must guide all organizing activity in a church is not how to keep people busy but how to keep them from being so busy that they can no longer hear the voice of God who speaks in silence. It is hearing the voice of God in the quiet that enables us to live and work well. Instead of being a guarantee of fruitfulness, overwork can rapidly become a guarantee against it.”
As I find myself proud of accomplishing much in life, or at least ‘doing many things,’ I look back and weigh the best results. Most were fulfilled when I was not rushed. While some of us like to pride ourselves on ‘producing the most when under pressure’, in actuality, those production moments merely completed the job. Most likely, they wore us out sending us to a point of exhaustion or bar sitting time. Those times where I sat in a chair relaxed with time to gather overflowing God-Spirit led creativity were the ones where my efforts brought out the best.
Efforts that bring out our best, emerge from a chair of rest.
As I look back, I wish had moved to the resting chair more often and more quickly. One of my favorite stories from the New Testament tells of a successful businessman who made every effort to find a way to spend time with Jesus. Once he was provided an invitation, he scrambled as fast as he could to take advantage of the opportunity to sit with Him in his home:
“Then Jesus entered and walked through Jericho. There was a man there, his name Zacchaeus, the head tax man and quite rich. He wanted desperately to see Jesus, but the crowd was in his way—he was a short man and couldn’t see over the crowd. So he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus when he came by.
When Jesus got to the tree, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry down. Today is my day to be a guest in your home.” Zacchaeus scrambled out of the tree, hardly believing his good luck, delighted to take Jesus home with him. Everyone who saw the incident was indignant and grumped, “What business does he have getting cozy with this crook?”
Zacchaeus just stood there, a little stunned. He stammered apologetically, “Master, I give away half my income to the poor—and if I’m caught cheating, I pay four times the damages.” Jesus said, “Today is salvation day in this home! Here he is: Zacchaeus, son of Abraham! For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost.”” Luke 19:1-10 MSG
When encountered with times when our minds and body are worn out, we seek out a time of rest and peace. When burnt out, most of us Christians cannot wait to get refreshment in a restful position of ‘time alone with God’. But why do we not act more like Zacchaeus who ran ahead of the crowd (metaphorically speaking – run ahead before our problems become un-manageable) and hurried down from the tree ‘scrambling’ to spend time sitting with Jesus in his home. He was transformed into a new man and restored. It was well worth his time to hurry and scramble to get to that position.
The empty chair in the cover photo represents two things: One, it sits ready for us to sit in it and relax in the presence of God. Two, it sits empty with an invitation from God who is waiting for us to set aside our life of busy-ness and production, to come to Him for rest, peace and guidance.
After being reminded how getting to a state of relaxation helped me to finish those projects, I know next time I need to Hurry to Unhurry? Moreover, before I get to a state of wipeout, I should always Hurry to Unhurry.
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