Recently we have been blessed by a book with an interesting title: The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to stay emotionally healthy and spiritually alive in the chaos of the modern world. Published last October, it was written because the author longed for a quieter, more Christ-like way to live. The premise is intriguing, and captured our imagination: ‘Who are you becoming? That was the question nagging pastor and author John Mark Comer. By outward metrics, everything appeared successful. But inwardly, things weren’t pretty. So he turned to a trusted mentor for guidance and heard these words: ‘Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life. Hurry is the great enemy of the spiritual life.’ It wasn’t the response he expected, but it continues to be the answer he needs.’
Comer talks about the spiritual disciplines of silence and solitude, sabbath, simplicity and slowing, which are all designed to bring us into the presence of God throughout the whole of our day, every day. The book unpacks all these themes, but the experience of silence and solitude may well be the one which we feel we’ve had enough of by now. We need people and company – after all, the Bible says that it’s not good for us to be alone, so we are aware that too much of it is not always a good thing. And yet…
‘In our ears we sense his voice cut through the cacophony of all the other voices, which slowly fade to the deafening roar of silence. In that silence we hear God speak his love over us. Speak our identities and calling into being. We get his perspective on life and our humble, good places in it. And we come to a place of freedom… In silence and solitude our souls finally come home.’
We have such a strong tendency to see our purpose in terms of busyness, so that in our own minds we believe ourselves useful only if we are caught up in a whirlwind of activity. Pentecost can seem to buy into that, as the disciples were overflowing with the Spirit and Peter did a lot of preaching so that many people were converted. Added to this, Jesus said ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ not ‘stay where you are and slow down’! But we forget that first century culture meant you couldn’t hurry (walking, not running… and sea travel took time) and Pentecost was followed by a period of just living and growing and worshipping together – not a mission to the ends of the earth straight away. That was going to take time, lots of time. Instead the people were being moulded into the sacrificial way of Jesus – and that is a slow process.
So don’t despair if you have no choice but to be at home, in stillness. You are not useless, and you are not failing in the Great Commission. This is an opportunity to reconnect with God and hear him in ways you haven’t before, or at least not for a long time. We are forced to slow down, to be still and silent, often in solitude but the message is still getting through – perhaps to more people than ever through modern technological marvels. The church’s birthday might be celebrated in more isolated ways than we are used to, but in the silence we can still have a party with God.
With our love and prayers,
Matthew and Pauline