Let me tell you about a man I’ll call Eddie. Over the years I’ve talked with lots of people like him. Many of the pastors and leaders we help are like him. I used to be a lot like him myself! Eddie is a pastor with a doctorate in ministry. He’s a dynamic preacher and rising leader among young pastors in America. He’s pleasant to be with, warm and friendly.
But being a pastor is suffocating his soul.
He admitted to me that he’s been depressed, even though there’s “no reason” for it. “Maybe there’s a reason,” I smiled. Then we did some personal archaeology . . .
He’s been in ministry since high school. He’s from a high-achieving Korean family. His dad is a renowned oncologist, but he always wanted to be a pastor so he dedicated his only son to the Lord to be a minister. So in a way, Eddie has been a pastor from birth! He even fit the role as a boy. His doctor dad was busy working most of the time so Eddie quickly became the man of the house, the one who had compassion for his mom, helped with his younger sisters, and led the family in prayer at dinner.
Eddie says he loves being a pastor. He “loves” it seventy hours a week! He “loves” it all the time, everywhere he goes since he feels he has to be “always on,” ready to lead, help, or pray for others. Even in his counseling session with me he has a biblical and insightful response to everything, including his own problems.
Being with him, I feel the weight of his role and the adrenaline that goes with it. He walks fast. He talks fast. He thinks fast. There’s an exciting energy that comes off of his body. But when it’s quiet, he feels awkward and squirms. “What’s next?” he says, tapping his fingers. He always wants to be “productive.”
But I look into his eyes and see fear. The real Eddie is hiding behind his role — and he doesn’t even know it. He doesn’t know how to feel vulnerable emotions with a person or with God. He’s alone.
“Try to live this next week unhurried,” I suggest. “You probably won’t be able to do it, but try and see how it feels. I’ll be interested to hear how this goes for you.”
Some Examples of Jesus’ Unhurried Ministry
Always in a hurry, the next day Eddie sent me an email asking about his “assignment” and the purpose of it. I gave him a little Bible study on the unhurried Jesus. Here are a few of the points:
Jesus worked as a blue-collar worker for eighteen years and waited till age thirty to begin His public ministry. (Luke 2:52)
He let John the Baptist “win” the competition for baptizing the most people. (John 4:1-3)
He waited until John was put in prison and couldn’t minister publicly before putting His own ministry into high gear. (Mark 1:14)
The Messiah with the most to do began His day in solitary prayer, relaxed. (Mark 1:35 and many other examples)
He waited until later in His ministry before picking twelve of His disciples to be His apostles and spent a whole night in a prayer vigil to make those decisions. (Luke 6:12-13)
He refused His brothers’ PR campaign to promote Him as a public figure at the feast. (John 7:14)
When He heard that His dear friend Lazarus was critically ill, He waited four days, letting him die, but then He raised him from the dead! (John 11:4-6)
When He was accused before Pilate and threatened with crucifixion, He was quiet and calm. (Mark 15:5)
To be unhurried, like Jesus, is to abandon outcomes to God. You’re not trying to make anything happen. You’re not trying to get anyone to do anything. You’re waiting on God. You’re patient. You’re free to enjoy the moment, love God and be loved by God, and love your neighbor.
Being unhurried is not lazy — it’s being alert, abiding in the Christ-vine, and very fruitful. (John 15:5)
One Time to Hurry
Of course, there are times to hurry, or rather to move fast. Hurry is an attitude of self-importance or scarcity. When you’re hurried, it feels like there isn’t enough time or resources so you’re straining, relying on yourself to produce.
Ironically, if you’ve trained to remain unhurried with Jesus then you can move fast when necessary and still be patient and humble and loving. But you can’t hurry and love others well any more than you can hurry yourself to sleep! (A friend told me Dallas Willard told her that. See Psalm 127 for an example.)
When did Jesus move fast? He was quick to pray. (Matt. 11:25, MSG) He made speed to go to the cross for us. (Mark 10:32) Those are the times to “hurry”: to pray and to obey the Lord.
Unhurried Disciplines and Emotions
When Eddie returned to my office, he had some emotions to share! That’s what I was looking for! Not the polished pastor, but the boy on the inside. If we’re always hurried, efficient, productive, or charming, it shuts down our emotions. When we slow down by getting lots of sleep or by practicing sabbath rest, then we feel our emotions and needs and can relate to people (and God) more authentically and vulnerably.
The you on the inside is not the same as the roles you serve in. Whom do you talk with about how it really feels to be you? Do you slow down enough to feel, to relate, to pray, to love the people around you. It’s easy to practice slowing down. Linger in bed in the morning. Walk very slowly to a meeting, yet arrive early so you can wait and pray. Listen to people without interrupting. Rejoice when you’re driving and you come to a stop light — “Thank You, Lord. I needed to be slowed down, to wait. I praise You…” Or set aside extended time to just be with Jesus in quiet and see how it feels. Then share your experience and emotions with someone you trust.
The best life is unhurried with Jesus.