This week's 'thought' comes to you from a little booklet called "The Tyranny of the Urgent," by Charles E. Hummel. It should speak to most in North America and Europe, though the spread of the - "must keep busy, must produce, and must always achieve more to have true meaning in my life" - mentality, has moved far beyond the borders of those two areas to infect places that used to be more relational and laid back in their approach to life.
This nearly universal persuasion in the West--that being busy, or always being in a hurry adds meaning to our lives--actually robs us of the more important things of life, such as depth, intimacy, satisfaction, and fulfillment in our relationships with God and others. After all, how can we relate to God or others on anything more than a superficial level if we never slow down long enough to put aside the tyranny of the next pressing task or appointment, focus of the person in front of us, listen attentively to what they are really trying to say, and then share with them (from an engaged heart) in return?
Merely sending off a rushed text or a tweet as we hurry to our next appointment may make us feel superficially connected, but it won't bring about the degree of intimacy the heart craves. Superficial interactions lead to superficial relationships and superficial relationships lead to a superficial life -- which is not God's intention for anyone.
Yet avoiding the trap of non-stop busyness, and breaking free from the addictive adrenalin rush that keeps us locked into that hurried pace, requires an earnest re-evaluation of what's important (in light of eternity), and a counter-cultural reorientation of both our priorities and schedules! In this sense Mr. Hummel offers some very sound advice. Enjoy.
"Have you ever wished for a thrity hour day? Surely this extra time would relieve the tremendous pressure under which we live. Our lives leave a trail of unfinished tasks. Unanswered letters, unvisited friends, and unread books haunt quiet moments when we stop to evaluate what we have accomplished. We desperately need relief. But would a longer day really solve our problem?...
When we stop long enough to think about it, we realize that our dilemma goes deeper than shortage of time. It is basically a problem of priorities... As an experienced factory manager once said to me, 'Your greatest danger is letting the urgent things crowd out the important.' He didn't realize how hard his advice hit. It has often returned to haunt and rebuke me by raising the critical problem of priorities...
Freedom from the tyranny of the urgent is found not only in the example of our Lord, but also in his promise. In a vigorous debate with the Pharisees in Jerusalem, Jesus said to those who believed in him, 'If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free...I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin... If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.' Many of us have experienced Christ's deliverance from the penalty and power of sin in our lives. Are we also letting him free us from the tyranny of the urgent? In this message he points the way: 'If you hold to my teaching.' This is the path to freedom, continuing day by day to meditate on the Scriptures and gain our Lord's perspective.
P. T. Forsyth once said: 'The worst sin is prayerlessness.' Does this statement surprise us? We usually think of murder and adultery as among the worst offenses against God and humanity. But the root of all sin is self-sufficiency, or independence from the rule of God. When we fail to wait prayerfully for God's guidance and strength, we are saying with our actions, if not with our words, that we do not need him. How much of our service is actually a 'going it alone'?
The opposite of such independence is prayer in which we acknowledge our need of God's guidance and empowerment. In this respect we have seen the example set by Jesus in the Gospels. He lived and served in complete dependence on his Father. Contrary to popular views, such dependence does not limit or repress human personality. We are never so fully personal -- free to become our true selves -- as when we are living in complete dependence on God."
Have you stopped to distinguish between the urgent and the important and made the important the priority? Do you do what is pressing when you really need to be doing is what is primary and crucial. I will never forget Martin Luther's famous words when he was swamped one day with a huge load of tasks: "I have so much to do today," he said, "that I need to spend the first three hours in prayer." What a word to the wise! So often we tend to use some pressing task or an overloaded schedule as a reason to skip our time of prayer, whereas Luther used it as a reminder of his need to pray all the more, and even pray longer than he normally did. That's probably because we tend to forget where our strength comes from. Many I've spoken with have confused the adrenalin rush of busyness and the accompanying sense of 'accomplishment pleasure' with the power of God and the strength He gives -- that is until they crash.
We would do well to remember that ongoing strength and focus and a right perspective on life come from time spent in His presence. That communion with God sustains the soul and uplifts the wearied spirit. That godliness is far more important than productivity. That God is far more interested in who we become than what we accomplish. That being still and knowing He is God is far more beneficial to the soul than simply being busy.
After all, as the Scripture declares, "The joy of the Lord is our strength" -- a joy conveyed to us (to renew and sustain us) as we spend time in the presence of the One who loves and delights in us -- even when we aren't doing, rushing, achieving or accomplishing anything!