How to give up hurrying for Lent

Thomas Merton wrote, “Hurry ruins saints as well as artists.” If that’s true, then I’m in trouble.

Nearly every day involves a handful of rushed moments in which I rarely keep my cool. I’m short with my children. I forget things at home (like my wallet — eek!). I let my worry take hold over any sense of peace I might otherwise have had. And worst of all, I forget that, ultimately, I’m not in control and the world does not revolve around me.

Emotionally, mentally, spiritually and, I’m sure, even physically, the stress of hurrying takes a toll on my family and me. Finding that Merton quote on a mug a few years ago (here it is as a free printable at Brick House in the City) helped me to consider why I so often find myself rushing from one place to the next, why I for so long believed that it was simply part of my current stage in life. But it doesn’t have to be this way if I have my priorities in order and I’m not trying to fit too much in a day. It can’t be this way if heaven is really my goal.

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I still have a long way to go, but a recent calmer morning caused me to reflect on how hurrying less has affected me for the better on almost every level — and why giving up hurrying might be a great move for a fruitful Lent.

Time for a reality check

Choosing not to hurry meant a reevaluation of my priorities and how I spend my time. In one season in particular, I regularly jammed too many expectations into the two hours I had at the YMCA while my son was in childcare. I planned to get a good workout, shower and do some freelance work. In reality, the editing usually took longer than expected, I spent all of 15 minutes on a treadmill, and then I raced to shower and pick up my child at the very last minute.

This year, I’ve decided gym time is just that — time to exercise and be present at the gym. That means choosing workouts that fit my schedule, while leaving time to chat with an acquaintance or friend in the hall. It means learning to use dry shampoo for the days I need it to cut down on shower time. Caring well for our bodies is, I think, a kind of prayer in itself. Trying to do less in the time I have is also an act of charity and respect for the ladies in childcare, since I’m no longer pushing right up to the edge of what’s acceptable.

Finding peace in a readjustment

Likewise, I’ve discerned a different approach to my work. I’ve let some projects go and taken others on as a result of bringing them to prayer. I’m trying to listen more to what God really needs me to do, rather than what I think I want to do. Some of that discernment comes from talking things through with my husband or a friend. With an open heart, we can hear the Lord in the quiet of adoration, the beauty of nature and even in conversation.

There is more margin in the time I set aside for work, as well as more joy in my work. I am more certain that I’m walking where the Lord has called me. That joy leads to a peace in my professional life that overflows in my relationships. When one aspect of my life feels chaotic, I have trouble being patient. On the other hand, when there’s stability in a significant corner of my life, I feel calmer in other areas as well.

Are you really sorry you’re late?

We all know people who are perpetually late. While tardiness can be something we take for granted in each other, if we’re the ones last to the party, it’s worth evaluating why.

When I ask myself why I’m late getting out the door, the answer is usually that I was trying to do just one more thing for my own benefit. This is typically a case, again, of setting unreasonable expectations about how much will happen in a space of time. That one more thing I was doing probably could have waited for later. I have plenty of Post-Its; I could have jotted myself a quick reminder, which would have taken less time.

In the Church, there’s often talk of giving our time, treasure and talent to a worthy cause. I’d posit that giving those few minutes, perhaps just 30 seconds of our time, to the person who’s expecting our arrival is a sacrifice that has the potential to go a long way toward holiness. To not do one more thing means leaving room for what someone else might need from us, which simply could be not arriving red-faced, out-of-breath and apologetic. The other person might not recognize what led to this more peaceful arrival, which means an opportunity for us to mortify ourselves in a simple and unseen way.

All with God’s grace

Giving up hurrying means reorganizing life on micro and macro levels. In my experience, it means not trying to cram a jillion things in a day, listening to what God actually needs you to do, not being late, and thus giving more time to others. To really make changes like these, thought processes, expectations and routines have to change. Change is hard, and it takes time. Long-ingrained habits don’t disappear with a wish.

Then again, Lent isn’t about wishes or self-improvement. Lent is about setting aside the distractions and obstacles that keep us from loving God and our neighbor with our whole hearts, our whole minds and our whole souls. It’s about less of us and more of him. Giving up hurrying for Lent — and developing holy habits that extend beyond Pentecost — may seem like a tall ask. But with God’s grace, anything is possible.

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