Review: An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Rest

An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus' Rhythms of Work and Rest
An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Rest by Alan Fadling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alan Fadling contends many of us are suffering from hurry sickness, and that it is not only detrimental to our bodies but also to our souls. We are going too fast to hear God, too fast to grow deeply, too fast to discern the temptations that lead us astray.

He begins by painting a picture of the frenetic life that characterizes modern life. He contrasts this with the idea of apprenticeship with Jesus, the unhurried learning with him. He argues from the life of Jesus that unhurry isn’t laziness and that there is no such thing as holy hurry, only holy unhurry. Unhurry enables us to resist temptations, which often come in the form of pressure to take shortcuts to some seemingly good thing. Unhurry gives us time to stop and care, to stop and pray. Sabbath is the gift of unhurried rest for God’s people. The next chapters (8 and 9) were most significant for me. He talks about suffering and how it can stop us in our tracks and take us into a place of unhurry where we meet God. And he talks about maturity, which if it is to happen well and deeply, cannot happen fast.

He concludes with a helpful chapter on practices for unhurry including EPC (Extended Personal Communion with God) which seemed to me another word for taking periods of spiritual retreat. Perhaps most helpfully, he suggests a one-third rule in the learning of spiritual practices, where one third of one’s learning time is devoted to actual practice. He also commends the practices of slowing down (for example, driving in the slow lane) and sleep, of which too many of us are deprived. His last chapter is on eternal life, in which we are already living. An eternal perspective can help us by reminding us that such a life is life with the Triune God, and that we are already where Christ is with God and this is what most matters.

I appreciated this book for its practicality (an eternal perspective is intensely practical!). I also appreciated his challenges to the numbers mentality that sets aside apprenticeships to pursue the fickle masses. Unhurried, deep work in the lives of people will touch many, as it did with Jesus work with the twelve. And this is what the author contends will happen when we follow Jesus in his rhythms of work and rest.

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Paradoxes: Efficiency and Simplicity

I grew up hearing about all the labor-saving devices that were going to make my life so much more leisurely. The forty hour work week would become a twenty hour week because technology would make our work so much more efficient. Funny thing though–while technology has indeed increased our efficiency, it has not led to a more leisurely or unhurried life.

I’m struck with this every time I fly (something I’ve done a bit of, lately!). Flying itself is interesting, because I can be in meetings in Columbus in the morning, and be leading a retreat in another state that evening. But it is not only that. I am amused with how as soon as we are “wheels down” everyone is on their smartphone (except for me who still has a “dumb” phone), to retrieve messages, emails, texts and Facebook updates queued up for them during the hour they had to turn their device to airplane mode (even then they are often composing emails).  Gone seem to be the days of the leisurely nap or conversations with a seatmate. I was struck recently with what quiet places planes have become–except when there are babies and children on board. Everyone is working. Airlines of course are capitalizing on this by offering wi-fi so you can be even more connected.

The paradox is that efficiency doesn’t make life simpler. The faster we can do things, the more things we do which may have been needless. And sometimes, technology actually complicates things. Remember when you could pick up the phone and actually get a person on the line and schedule a time to meet, whether for business or fun–and you might get a few minutes of catching up with the person in as well? Now it is often a matter of a series of emails or texts back and forthing about a time, then a place–if you get responses. What once could be done in five minutes now may take a series of interchanges over a half day or more–and far less personal.

Meyer Friedman, MD

Meyer Friedman, MD

What it seems all this has done is created a society that is far more complicated, and in a hurry. Recently, I came across the term “hurry sickness.”  The term was coined by Meyer Friedman, MD, whose research was on type A personalities and the increased incidence of heart attack and other circulatory diseases caused by stress.

Perhaps it is time for a return to the old wisdom, which never would have talked about “working harder, faster, and smarter” but rather recognized that rest, play, reflection, and deliberate thought actually were far more fruitful adjuncts to a creative and fruitful life than relying on technology to “save labor.”

How have you stepped off the treadmill of “efficiency” to embrace a life of unhurried simplicity?