I read once that in the early days of his ministry at Willow Creek Community Church, pastor John Ortberg contacted a spiritual leader for advice (I think it was Dallas Willard).
“What do I need to do to be spiritually healthy?” Ortberg asked.
“You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life,” he said at last.
That’s it. Willard refused to add anything else to his advice—not even a footnote.
That concept sounded challenging when I only had to manage myself and my anxiety-ridden mind. Now we have kids, and hurry just feels like the baseline for every day.
Before the birth of our first son, I asked a mother of three (now four) about the ways that having a kid changes your day-to-day life.
Her eyes grew big. “The nap,” she said. “Everything revolves around the nap.”
I only have two kids, but her advice has proven true thus far. Most days I can only make the nap happen if I hurry.
If you’ve ever seen a young kid completely losing it in a store, red-faced bawling and throwing everything while shrieking, “NOOOOO!!!!”, you have most likely seen evidence of either a late nap or no nap. Not every time, mind you, but this is a typical outcome for nap-less child.
I consider myself a spiritual or contemplative writer. I also spend about half of each day with our kids. Hurry feels essential to the latter even if it’s toxic for the former.
Most days it’s on me to get the kids home in time for their naps, preparing lunch, finding what they need for nap time, and setting things up for a smooth transition for when my wife comes home to put the oldest down for a nap.
If I’m late, there’s no wiggle room. Lunch is a long, slow, messy disaster where the older child spills milk frequently, food is chewed up and then thrown by the younger child, and both require constant prodding to take the next bite.
You could say that each day is like a stack of dominos where falling off course at an early point in the day makes it that much harder to knock out the next thing.
If the kids are late for lunch, then I can expect that they’re late for their naps, I’m late to my work, the chance of at least one kid having a melt down increases, the chance of short or skipped naps increases, and then an afternoon of over-tired and cranky kids increases.
There’s no single moment that is a make or break scene. A late nap isn’t a guarantee that the wheels will fall off. It’s more like you’ve loosened up the lug nuts on the wheels and taken a high-speed drive on a bumpy road.
In order to make the nap happen I have to manage the prodding of my children throughout the morning. If we’re going to the children’s science museum and still have time for lunch, the ideal is to leave the house by 9:30 am, and the prodding always includes negotiating, cleaning up spills, and multiple threats. The journey from the parking lot to the ticket desk to the play area requires SIGNIFICANT prodding to stay on track. Then the play time is followed by more prodding to get a snack and more prodding to get all the way back to the car and then, hopefully, a little prodding to get into the house.
I know that my tendency is to be a hurried, up-tight, no-nonsense parent. While we can’t stop and look at every single display in the science museum hallway, I began to wonder this fall if I needed to work on cutting back on the hurry in my life. I started to notice that plenty of parents bring their kids 5-10 minutes late for pre-school. Yes, our son prefers to be there early, but that has yet to translate into cooperation when leaving the house without a long list of conditions and needs.
There are times when we genuinely need to move faster in order to get the kids home in time to eat and then sleep. However, hurry has also become a default setting of sorts for myself.
Hurry becomes a lifestyle rather than an occasional tactic for moving kids in the right direction when time is of the essence.
I’m working on my awareness of hurry through my daily Examen practice. I want to know when I’m making too much of a small thing. I also want to extend grace to myself when I’m doing my best to handle a difficult situation.
I can feel the pull of hurry when I’m praying, meditating on scripture, reflecting on my day, or reading at the end of the day. There’s a pull to get this done and move on to the next thing.
With hurry, life becomes a production line where tasks need to be completed efficiently and production capacity is the only goal.
Hurry hates stillness and quiet.
Hurry hates “being” because it’s all about doing. Spirituality needs being in order to translate into doing.
Parents who want to cultivate a healthy spiritual life regularly face this gap between what spiritual leaders tell us we need and the meager scraps left in our days. This spiritual struggle while parenting small children is well documented in Micha Boyett’s book Found.
Must parents watch their spirituality whither away under the burden of hurry?
I’m very much in process here. I don’t have the answers. I do have an observation:
The spirit or mindset of hurry strikes me as a far greater threat rather than beating myself up over each time I have to hurry in order to keep our kids happy and sane.
I don’t want to let hurry become my default. I don’t want hurry to be a part of nearly every interaction with my kids.
And here’s the real kicker and perhaps the greatest trap of all: We can be in a hurry to get rid of… hurry.
I’ve been moving into a season of awareness and discernment about hurry. I don’t want to rush this. After all, I most likely became a hurried, worried parent gradually. What makes me think the solution will happen overnight?
I’m not in a hurry to address my struggles with hurry, and that feels like enough for today.