Good Firefighters Don’t Rush

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He’s a firefighter who’s preparing to plant a church. I can’t remember how it came up, but we started talking about his job. In particular, we talked about the mad rush to respond to a call, interrupting his study of theological books in the firehall.

“Oh no,” he responded. “Good firefighters don’t rush.”

I was surprised. I want firefighters to rush to my aid when needed. Good firefighters, he explained, calmly walk to the truck when responding to a call. When they arrive at the scene, they carefully take stock of the situation before charging into action.

You think you want a rushed firefighter, he said. But only rookie firefighters do that. The experienced firefighters know that hurry puts lives at risk. Hurry gets in the way of saving lives. A frantic firefighter is not a good firefighter.

Life at Warp Speed

Hurry is the speed of my life. I spend my days running from commitment to commitment. I sometimes lie in bed at night wondering what I really accomplished, dreading a repeat of the same tomorrow.

The cost is high. Busyness can ruin our joy, writes Kevin DeYoung in his book Crazy Busy. It can rob our hearts. It can cover up the rot in our souls. “For most of us, it isn’t heresy or rank apostasy that will derail our profession of faith,” he writes. “It’s all the worries of life. You’ve got car repairs. Then your water heater goes out. The kids need to see a doctor. You haven’t done your taxes yet. Your checkbook isn’t balanced. You’re behind on thank you notes. You promised your mother you’d come over and fix a faucet. You’re behind on wedding planning. Your boards are coming up. You have more applications to send out. Your dissertation is due. Your refrigerator is empty. Your lawn needs mowing. Your curtains don’t look right. Your washing machine keeps rattling. This is life for most of us, and it’s choking out spiritual life.”

Bill gates calls busy the new stupid, and he’s right. Hurry robs us of our ability to love God and others and to think clearly. It makes us irritable. Hurry is the enemy of our souls.

Hurry robs us of our ability to love God and others and to think clearly. It makes us irritable. Hurry is the enemy of our souls.

The Unhurried Christian and the Unhurried Pastor

The same firefighter asked me how I manage all my responsibilities. I stumbled over the answer. I’m not, I confessed, at least well. I’m not as present in my community as I’d like to be. I spend far too many days frantically rushing from appointment to appointment. I’m not a good example to follow.

But I’m learning: good pastors don’t rush. I can’t be available to my people, to my community, or even to God if I’m constantly in a hurry. I can’t be open to the interruptions that are part of God’s agenda. If I’m to pastor as I should, I must create the necessary space in my life to be unhurried.

But that’s not just true of pastoring. It’s true of any follower of Jesus. I’m not a good example just yet, but I’m slowly learning the lesson my firefighter friend taught me. The stakes are high. Our lives and ministries are short. When it comes to living and serving faithfully, we can’t afford to rush.

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