Life in the Slow Lane

My life is hectic. There is no way around that. I work in ministry full-time, run a business, and have five kids. Layer on top of that a smartphone and access to unlimited entertainment and media and we have a recipe for disaster.

My suspicion is that if you described your life, it would be similar to mine. A sense of constant business. There is always something to do, somewhere to be and someone to talk to. It’s overwhelming.

What is the answer to this hectic, permanently busy life we are all living? John Mark Comer’s answer in his book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, is the spiritual disciplines. Initially, that answer may seem like a typical, trite church answer. You’re overwhelmed? Just pray more. It’ll be fine!

Comer’s take on the problem of our modern life and his solutions aren’t new but they are refreshing. I have read and loved Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster and The Life You’ve Always Wanted by John Ortberg. They are outstanding texts on engaging with Christian spiritual disciplines.

Foster and Ortberg are towers on the landscape of modern Christianity. Their works are outstanding and oft-quoted by Comer. The difference is that Comer has lived his life as a Millennial and everything that implies. Foster and Ortberg have not. And this makes all the difference.

The Problem
Comer’s life as a Millennial is what allows his unique vision into the hectic nature of life in 2023. While older texts will focus on the disciplines and how we ought to engage with them, Comer begins with what life today is.

The first half of the book takes its time exploring life in the US in the 2020s. Comer examines the impact of being over-scheduled, always accessible, and the presence of smartphones and social media in our lives.

He presents and explores these topics through the lens of his own experience. He is never judgmental or accusatory. He is simply saying this is how my life was and I bet yours is a lot like that, too. I was tired. Aren’t you tired?

The communal answer from most Millennial adults would be a resounding yes. I am willing to bet that the answer from many people who are a part of Gen Z would be a resounding yes, as well.

Modern life is overwhelming and exhausting because we rush from one place to another without time to process things. Many of us feel as though this is the only way because we’ve never seen someone living differently. But that is only because we haven’t been paying attention.
The Fix
The solution to a hurried life is to slow down. This seems obvious and impossible. How do you slow down when you’re working, your spouse is working, your kids are on 1.7 million sports teams, and you have to cook dinner tonight?

I had the same question and my jaded mind was ready to quickly reject Comer’s trite church answers. But those trite answers never came. Instead, he gave answers that are thousands of years old and yet immediately useful.

The four practices that Comer suggests are silence and solitude, sabbath, simplicity, and slowing. Again, each of these are ancient practices that many others have written about. Comer has a way of presenting them that immediately connects with those who are living in our current reality.

Silence and solitude are at a minimum in our world of noise and thunder. But each morning, we can sit quietly, read Scripture, and pray. These quiet moments of meditation allow us to begin our day with silence and in God’s presence, and this sets a tone of rest for our entire day.

Sabbath is setting time aside for worship and rest. Comer talks about how he begins his family sabbath as the sun sets on Friday. They turn off devices, intentionally unplug, and choose to engage in activities they enjoy and can use as a means of worship. This continues until the sun sets on Saturday.

Few of us maintain a sabbath practice like the one Comer describes. But we all need rest. And the Bible commands it. Comer makes a compelling case for sabbath and how it will improve our lives. He points out how our minds are able to reset without the input of social media, how our souls can catch up to our bodies, and how we can be refreshed through worshipping our King.

Simplicity is the practice that will likely cut closest to home for many of us. This is the idea that we are to be content with what we need, not with what our culture tells us we should have.

It is no secret that the US is a consumer-driven culture. We are told that we constantly need more, more, more, more. Comer points out that this overconsumption forces hurry into our lives. We have to be constantly hustling for more money so we can buy more stuff and have our dreams come true.

As we seek simplicity, we are looking to identify our needs and trust the Lord to meet them. We also must consider the impact of our consumer-driven choices on others and the larger environment.

Simplicity forces us to ask if we are purchasing products that are making other human lives worse. Are we unintentionally purchasing products made by slaves or wage slaves? We have to consider the environmental impact of purchasing clothes that are intended to only last a few months rather than a few years.

This is the practice that most directly convicted my wife and me in our buying practices. We have too much. Our kids have too much. We have very rarely, if ever, considered the sustainability of our purchasing choices. As we seek simplicity, we have begun to ask these questions, and we have begun to change our decisions.

The final practice Comer suggests is slowing. And it is exactly what it sounds like. Slowing down. In the slowing chapter, Comer makes 15 specific suggestions about how we can slow our day-to-day lives.

The one that stood out to me like a beacon was choosing to drive the speed limit. I have had a driver's license for 23 years. And for every single day of those 23 years, I have driven FAR faster than the speed limit. I have been pulled over 25–30 times in my life and every single time it has been for speeding.

I chose to follow this suggestion and began driving at the speed limit. The first 3 or 4 times I did this, I felt like I was going to die from a panic attack. I’m not exaggerating. My chest got tight. I had a hard time breathing; I felt completely overwhelmed by anxiety. That’s normal, right?

As I have continued this practice, I have found a deep sense of peace and joy in it. There is something satisfying about driving at a slower pace and enjoying the experience. Slowing down is good for us. I should do it more often.

In the end, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry is one book among many about spiritual disciplines. However, Comer’s Millennial viewpoint on life has made spiritual disciplines more accessible than ever to a new generation of adults who desperately need them.

Josh Cervone