Have you heard of “hurry sickness”? It’s also known as “time urgency.” Back in the 1950’s two cardiologists, Dr. Ray Rosenman and Dr. Meyer Friedman, diagnosed this condition and noticed it was most prevalent in what they coined the “Type A” personality. They identified this type “A person” as someone who was constantly hurrying, constantly rushing, constantly being urgent even when there was no reason to do so. Their research discovered that this condition led to chronic anger, stress, interpersonal conflicts and decreased life satisfaction. Left unchanged, ultimately it led to heart attacks and premature death.
How do you know if you have hurry sickness? Author Dr. Ann McGee-Cooper provides the following check-list: “I typically drive 10 or more miles/hour over the speed limit.”…“I interrupt others and/or finish their sentences.”…“I get impatient in meetings when someone goes on a tangent.”…“I rush to be first in line, even when it doesn’t matter” (i.e., getting off an airplane first in order to stand at Baggage Claim longer)…“I view ‘hanging out’ as a waste of time”. Do any of those statements apply to you? Does that list describe your behavior or attitudes, even just a little bit?
If you are at all afflicted by hurry sickness or time urgency, then you are in trouble. Not just physically, but spiritually as well. Author and Pastor John Ortberg says this: “Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. Hurry can destroy our souls.”
Why is hurry so dangerous? Because we cannot microwave or tweet our way into a deep relationship with God. Like any relationship, it is a serious investment of time and energy and so it cannot be done on the fly.
Yet I sometimes think the greater issue is what we value. Professor Thomas Kelly summed up our problem this way: “People nowadays take time far more seriously than eternity.”
What is the antidote to this problem? I propose to you that it is the spiritual discipline of solitude. Solitude is regularly and intentionally taking time to slow down and listen to God.
Thankfully, God’s word repeatedly encourages us to hurry up and slow down. Psalm 46:10 says “Be still, and know that I am God…”. Psalm 131:2 says “I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.”
How can you practice solitude? I have two suggestions. First off, schedule it. You must block out the time: you must build it into your daily, monthly and annual schedule. So talk to your spouse. Or if you are a single parent, hire a babysitter or have a friend watch your kids. It will look different for different people: it could mean taking a few hours every week, or it could mean taking one full day on a quarterly basis. You will never know for sure until you start to try!
Secondly, withdraw. You must go to a place where you can be alone and silent, without distractions. Jesus was great at this. Mark 1:35—39 tells us that after Jesus spent hours healing people and casting out demons, the next morning he awoke very early and went off to a solitary place where he prayed to his Heavenly Father. Mark 6:31—32 describes how after Jesus heard that his cousin John the Baptist had died and after his twelve disciples returned from an exciting time of preaching and healing, Jesus told them “ ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.”
The best way to withdraw is to find a place where you can be alone, still and silent so you can engage in activities such as reading the Bible or praying or even writing your thoughts in a journal.
Here’s the bottom line: whatever you choose to do and however you choose to do it, please hurry up and slow down for the health of your body, mind and soul.