While there are so many things not to like about the last couple months of the shutdown of sports and gatherings, stay-at-home orders, closings of businesses and restaurants, social distancing, shortage of toilet paper and more, I hear people talking about a few things they do like.  I’ve been listening to my friends writing and talking about cooking and eating dinner together at home with their families, enjoying walks, bike rides and table games in the evenings and not needing to rush off to soccer, dance, baseball, gymnastics, rehearsals and practices or tournaments and competitions on the weekends. In summary, they like the pause of over-loaded schedules and the slower pace of daily life.

Back in the 1950’s, cardiologist Dr. Meyer Friedman was doing research on the causes of heart disease.  Dr. Friedman was the one who identified the “Type A personality” – the urgent go-getter who finds it hard to slow down.  During that same time period, he coined the phrase “Hurry Sickness” and defined it as, “a behaviour pattern characterized by continual rushing and anxiousness; an overwhelming and continual sense of urgency.”  And that was during a time period before microwaves, internet, email, texts and smart phones existed.  Don’t forget that the sales pitch of technology in our time is that we will be able to think faster, talk faster, and act faster. 

Reflection Lake in the Mt. Rainier National Park
(GingerichPhotoArt.com displays Dennis’ most preferred way of slowing the pace)

Cory Demmel, my successor at Cape Christian, asked the question last week in his message, “Is the Pace OF my life draining the Peace IN my life?” That’s a great question for all of us to ask ourselves during this time as we see hopeful signs of restrictions being lifted, businesses unlocking their doors and life going back to “normal.” But what if we created a new normal that paid attention to the pace of our lives?

What if, this pandemic experience is a providential opportunity for us to re-examine a way of living that we have never even thought to question?  What if hurry sickness has caused greater loss than COVID-19? What if the great American myths of “If you work harder, I will get everything I want,” and “The busier I am the more productive or successful I must be” are just that, myths?  What if the pace of my life is draining the peace in my life?

Pastor Cory Demmel made a memorable statement that I won’t forget: “Most of our problems are either caused or made worse because we are going too fast, for too long.”  Think about it.  Our relationships suffer when we no longer have unhurried conversations.  Our finances suffer when we get in a hurry, are impulsive and don’t take time to make a well-informed decision. Our health suffers when we don’t get enough rest, take a day off each week or take vacations. The best advice I received over 30 years ago was from Rick Warren when he said, “Divert Daily, Withdraw Weekly and Abandon Annually.”

Here’s the problem.  When you’re in a constant state of urgency, your brain is stuck in a constant state of fight or flight mode. You’re flooded with cortisol and it’s difficult to access the executive level functions in your brain.  “Working at breakneck speed for extended periods of time does not enhance productivity; it reduces it,” says Dr. Edward Hallowell, author of CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap! “When we work too fast for too long, we get tired, become inefficient, make mistakes, and become unable to think clearly and sharply.”

Let’s choose a new normal going forward. We need to find the sweet spot in the tension between periods of busy achievement and periods of ease and enjoyment.  It will take intentionality. Practice doing something slowly, like eating a meal over a period of 30 minutes, without checking your phone.  And deal with the fear of what might happen if you slow down and pace yourself.  If you don’t get everything done today, what will happen?  Not everything is life-and-death.  Ask what is the best and the worst that could happen if you slow down and pace yourself?

Don’t forget, even Jesus found that the high demands of crowds of people wanting his help didn’t require him to always say “yes” to them. Mark 6:45-46 is one of multiple examples where he told the crowds to go home as he slipped away alone on the side of a mountain or out on a boat, recharging and finding peace.  Jesus realized that his pace predicted his peace. If Jesus modeled it, I choose to follow the same pattern.  How about you?

Dennis

P.S. If you want to watch Pastor Cory Demmel’s excellent message on pace, go to https://vimeo.com/411581301

QUESTION: I’d love to hear how you intentionally slow down your pace of life? Please share it in the Comment section below.

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