This article was originally published in Compassion Canada’s Summer 2020 Magazine.
If I were to ask you what one thing was butting heads with our spiritual lives as Christians today, what would you say? Would you say secularism? Politics? Lack of discipline? If you asked theologian Dallas Willard, his answer would be simple. “Hurry,” he’d say. “Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”*
Let that sink in for a moment. We are a culture of people with fast-paced lives, there’s no doubt about it. But what’s that got to do with anything? Is that really the thing we have to worry about? Let’s take some inventory.
Close your eyes and imagine with me the typical day of a Canadian from start to finish.
Deep breath in.
You wake up to your smartphone buzzing for your attention. You follow your trained thumbs from app to app like it’s second nature—Instagram, Twitter, Email, Facebook, Instagram again. You gobble down your breakfast bar and race to your 9-to-5 with the morning radio blasting in your ears, checking your phone as you turn off your car and walk into your work building. After work is through, you order takeout or delivery because between traffic jams and your kid’s soccer practice, who in their right mind can make a home-cooked meal? When you finally get a moment to yourself it’s around 9 p.m., and you know you should probably get some quiet time in but Netflix is calling and a few episodes won’t do you any harm.
Deep breath out. Does this sound at all familiar?
The tension between busyness and faith is nothing new. Great Christian thought leaders have pinpointed this for years. Corrie ten Boom once said, “If the devil can’t make you sin, he’ll make you busy.”* But the stakes are even higher now in our digital age, with even more vying for our attention.
As a culture, we tend to equate busyness with success, and success with wholeness. But the reality is, we were never created to be made whole by how much we do. We cannot be the whole, flourishing humans we were created to be if we don’t allow ourselves capacity to slow down and clear away all the digital and cultural clutter that has the capacity to drown out the voice of the Holy Spirit.
86% of Smartphone users will check their device while speaking to family and friends.
Today and every day, I know that I, as a Jesus follower, need to slow down enough to fix my eyes more on the things above (Colossians 3:2) than the things on my screen. I need to let my heart break for what breaks my Father’s, to the point where I pour out compassion beyond just pausing and sighing at another headline of sad news.
By no means should we allow guilt to be our guidepost for how we live. We don’t have the capacity as humans to take on everyone’s struggles and heartache. We wouldn’t be able to function that way. But sometimes, we need a wake-up call to the things we have grown numb to, because perhaps, we have swung too far the opposite way. We need to allow our hearts and our minds the breathing room they need to process the world’s brokenness, bring it to Jesus—the One who holds all things together—and breathe out the mercy, peace and compassion we can only get from Him.
Practically speaking, there are things we simply can’t give up. There will always be chores, and work and places to take the kids. But as followers of Jesus, are there things we ought to prioritize that we are filling with our busyness and hustle because, well, it’s just easier?
4.5 hrs/day is the average amount of time spent on smartphones and tablets.
Let’s look at what God invites us into as His holy people, today in our culture:
Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12). Carry each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other (Ephesians 4:32). Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15). Use whatever gift you have received to serve others (1 Peter 4:10). Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor (Zechariah 7:9-10).
What incredible Kingdom-culture! I don’t want to miss out on it because of hurry, busyness or distraction. When our brains are constantly filled with information because of our devices or because we’re rushing from commitment to commitment, we don’t leave space for our mind and our hearts to catch up with the calling we’ve been given in Christ. To breathe in empathy and breathe out compassion. To walk in the ways of mercy and kindness. To work for the good of our brothers and sisters.
2,617 is the average amount of clicks, swipes and taps the average phone user engages in per day.
So, how do we change this? Is it truly impossible to live into these callings in what some refer to as our “hurry culture”? Yes. And yes. It won’t be easy. But Jesus never said it would be (Matthew 16:24-26).
Take a look at some of these practical disciplines to help guide you deeper into your calling as a Jesus follower full of compassion, mercy and love:
1. Make it a habit to check in with yourself throughout the day, asking these questions:
- Am I becoming a more compassionate, kind, humble and gentle person by checking my phone multiple times a day or watching this show?
- Am I paying attention to the people around me and their needs?
- Does the pace of my life allow me the time to administer justice to those oppressed around me and those across the world?
- Am I giving myself the time and the mind space that’s required to mourn with those who mourn?
2. Use tools to help you be less distracted.
Download apps for your phone like Moment, AppDetox or Flipd, each designed to regulate the amount of time you spend on your phone. Implementing these will help you stay focused on the people in front of you and use your downtime for spiritual practices like prayer, worship, silence and solitude that allow you to connect with the heart of God.
3. Protect your quiet time.
We know how easy it is to let our quiet time with God slip lower on our daily priority lists. Starting small, carve out a time once or twice a week to be alone with God—whether it’s taking a walk in nature, sitting on your bed with your Bible and journal or sitting on your couch with a cup of tea as your toddler naps. Don’t be legalistic about it. Give yourself grace, and work up to spending a chunk of time a day in the quiet place with God out of a posture of expectation, not obligation. The more we are able to centre ourselves on God’s truth and God’s voice in a world of voices shouting at us, the more we will grow into people of compassion. We will remember our priorities, and feel less scattered.
What do you think?
Take some time to reflect on some of these questions.
- What are some of the things vying for your attention these days? How many are necessary, and how many could you cut out?
- What practices could you implement into your life to help you grow more like Jesus in compassion, mercy and love rather than distraction, hurry and hustle?
- What are some specific things you need prayer for in this journey? Who could you call upon in your life to partner with you in this journey?
*Reference from The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, John Mark Comer
Statistics from BankMyCell Report 2019-2020, www.bankmycell.com/blog/smartphone-addiction/#chapter1