Hurry: An Enemy of Love
I burned my hand one day after my last post - and I don’t mean a run-it-under-cold-water-burn - I’m talking the call-my-doctor-and-narcotic-naps kind of burn.
I tried a new way of cooking pork tenderloin because I thought it would be faster than my usual recipe. Heating the cast-iron skillet in a 450 degree oven, I took it out with oven mitts and carefully placed my pork into the pan to get the perfect sear. Then, distracted and hurrying, I grabbed the handle of the skillet with my bare left hand. In one motion I let go of the hot handle, turned on the cold water with my other hand and begin yelling for my husband. The pain was acute. He got ice on it and our doctor- friend (experienced with treating burns) took at look, coated my hand in ointment, wrapped it in bandages, and gave me pain meds - the good kind. That first night was long- sleeping with my arm elevated on a pillow, an icepack in my palm. By morning the pain had subsided greatly, but reality sunk in. I could not use that hand at all. Wrapped in gauze like a white bear claw, it was useless to me as I tried to dress myself, wash my hair and unload the dishwasher. I realized how important two opposable thumbs are when you button your jeans and how slowly you do things when only one hand works.
If not for the pain and inconvenience, I would have laughed at the irony. I had just posted that my next blog would be about hurrying as one of the things that prevents me from seeing and experiencing the presence of God in my life. The next day and several more after it, I had blisters on my fingertips and couldn’t type at all.
This week I have been trying to write my morning pages in my journal more slowly. For me that means writing in print rather than writing in cursive. I never print. My sister prints beautifully because she is a first-grade teacher who writes on posters in big, magic-marker letters. I was a high-school English teacher with essays to grade, so I wrote in cursive - hurriedly and sloppily. Printing my three morning pages forces me to slow down, allowing my thoughts the time to take shape. My prayer is slowing down and there is space to listen. I see the sunlight falling on the page. I notice the way I form my ‘e’ or my ‘d’. I think about my sister more than usual and see that my print can actually look like hers. I can print like a first grade teacher if I slow down. This makes me smile. I give thanks for her and the gift she has of being excited about spending her days with a new class of 6-year-olds every year. This is where the practice of slow-writing takes me…to gratitude and recognition of other people’s gifts…and to more legible handwriting.
I don’t see things when I am in a hurry. The beauty and kindness of God are always there, but like a car speeding past billboards on a highway, I don’t have time to read the signs - the soft face of a newborn child, the leathered-hand of an elderly parent, the perfection of a egg, or the first brush of orange and red in the tree-tops. These are the things that nourish me. On days when I look expectantly for God, He always appears - often in the face of another - to remind me that He is with me and I am loved.
I have read the works of John Ortberg for years and one of the first things I remember learning from him was this:
“Love and hurry are fundamentally incompatible. Love always takes time, and time is the one thing hurried people don't have.”
― John Ortberg, The Life You've Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People
Initially I only understood that statement in terms of loving others, taking time to show them love. I’m now realizing that receiving love also takes time. My own hurry keeps me from experiencing the presence of God in my life. Perhaps when I don’t feel loved, by God or by others, it’s because I am not taking time to notice what is in fact true and usually right in front of me.
In Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You, Ortberg tells the story of calling his friend, Dallas Willard, for spiritual direction during a particularly busy season of his life. He called “ to ask him what I needed to do to stay spiritually healthy. I pictured him sitting in that room as we talked. There was a long pause — with Dallas there was nearly always a long pause — and then he said slowly, ‘You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.’ I quickly wrote that down…’There is nothing else,’ he said, generously acting as if he did not notice my impatience. “Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”
I love that story, how Ortberg emphasizes the long pauses that Dallas Willard took in conversation. The man didn’t even talk in a hurry. That’s a whole other practice I could try - slowing down my speech - pausing between sentences. For a Southerner, I’m one fast-talking girl.
A few years ago, I wrote about the need to slow down in transitions . That was a good beginning for me to the practice of slowing, but now the pace of my everyday and my ordinary needs to slow, too.
The burned hand turned out to be a grace in my life. My husband helped button and fasten and open and close all kinds of things for days. My doctor-friend checked on me later in the week and my nurse-neighbor came over to change my bandages. We went out to dinner more than usual that week. I received kindness and help. I saw God showing up for me - in the hands of others doing what mine could not. The slower pace had me paying attention. I received his help and his love.
As I pray to be like my dog - attentive, steady, loyal and patient - the way Grizzly is with me, I realize once again that slowing down is the indisputable starting point.