The Covid-19 lockdown had some widely differing impacts on people’s lives. For some, it has been an incredibly busy time making adjustments, reinventing how they do their job/run their business, etc. But for others there’s been enforced rest during lockdown; either because of furlough, redundancy, or being unable to trade in their business. For many people this enforced rest has come with significant anxiety about the future, which means that it’s hardly been restorative rest.
As we come out of lockdown I notice that the pace of life, at least for those coming off furlough, is as busy if not busier than it has ever been as they adjust to the ‘new normal’. I’m aware of many people who are feeling incredibly stressed by the experience; tempers are short, little niggles seem harder to ignore and small changes of plans or circumstances heighten tensions and can spark arguments.
In his book, ‘The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry’ John Comer writes, ‘We all have our own story of trying to stay sane in the day and age of iPhones and Wi-Fi and the 24-hour news cycle and urbanisation and soul-crushing traffic and non-stop noise and a frenetic ninety-miles-per-hour life of go, go, go…’
There are good types of busy, where our lives are full of the things that matter to us. And there are bad types of busy, where our time is consumed by empty leisure, binge-watching Netflix, browsing Facebook, gaming apps, etc. Things that provide a distraction, but rarely if ever leave us feeling fulfilled or uplifted.
A recent study found that the average smartphone user will touch their phone over 2300 times a day and for millennials, it is twice that much!
Studies have shown that the digital age, which ushered in the ability to easily access masses of information, has also reduced our ability to focus. They report that our attention span before 2008 was about 12 seconds, but since it has dropped 8 seconds. To put that in perspective the attention span of a goldfish is said to be 9 seconds!
In the busyness of life, we can become so distracted and preoccupied, that the things that truly matter to us become marginalised. Comer writes, ‘We end up just skimming the surface of our lives rather than truly living them.’
Being busy is not necessarily a bad thing, but being hurried is. When we are hurried, we have too much to do and we are rarely present in any moment to truly enjoy life. Comer reports that mental health professionals are now talking about another epidemic in the modern world, and they label it ‘Hurry Sickness.’
The person who first coined the phrase Hurry Sickness was cardiologist Meyer Friedman. He defined it as, ‘A continuous struggle and unremitting attempt to accomplish or achieve more and more things or participate in more and more events in less and less time.’ And he wrote that in the 1950s!
What can we do to truly live life and thrive in the pace of life today? It’s not as though we can suddenly stop working, or stop caring for our children or elderly relatives. How do we arrange our lives so that we can truly live them, deeply live them?
Jesus was incredibly busy, but he was never hurried. He was always on the move, but always made time to stop and show compassion, to listen and to heal, to teach and to correct. He seemed to live in the moment, noticing all that happened around him, and his life was full of things that mattered.
Jesus taught that this way of living was available to people now and even said that was why he’d come … so that we might have life and have it abundantly.
5 years ago, I came close to burnout. After the crisis passed, I reevaluated a lot of what I was doing and found a new balance that allowed me to live life more to the full. I have a long way to go, but despite the fact that I’m far busier today than I have ever been, I’m also a lot less hurried.
In coming out of lockdown many people are re-evaluating how they spend their time and trying to find a new balance in their lives. If that is the case for you, then you might find our new course, Bite-Sized Alpha, a good introduction to exploring some of the claims that Jesus made about abundant life.
In the chaos of these uncertain times, my prayer for us all is that we’d find the deep and satisfying peace of a life that is full of the things that matter, and that we would be able to live that life in an unhurried way, truly enjoying it.
Rev Barry Jackson