[This is one of the posts telling a story from the life of my Dad. Click here to see the others.]
I hate being in a hurry. People who've known me for some time laugh at that, because even when I perceive myself to be in a hurry, I'm still only moving at about 1/3 the speed of normal people. But still... I hate it. Hurry makes me impatient with people, mad at anything that gets in my way, and generally in a mood where I can't enjoy anything good that's right in front of me.
One of the qualities I admired most about my Dad was that I never saw him in a hurry. There were times when something had to be done quickly (for example, to avoid being kicked by the cattle), but even in those times he always had an unhurried quality about him. Just as I can't imagine what some people might be like if I was ever around them and they were really relaxed, I can't imagine what my Dad would have been like if he'd lived in a hurry.
If he had lived in a hurry, I certainly wouldn't have some of the unhurried memories with him. One morning while I was in elementary school, for some reason, it was up to him to take us to school. We got in his pickup truck, and he backed it out of the driveway, as he always did. But on this morning, to my little-boy amazement, he continued in reverse. First to the stop sign at the corner, then onto the main road... appearing that he intended to go the entire 13-mile trip to school in reverse. All the time, he was acting as if nothing at all were unusual about the situation. I can't recall with any accuracy how far we actually went in reverse before he heeded the giggling calls of, "Dad, what are you doing? Turn around!" but in my little-boy memory, it seemed like we went nearly five miles.
(Please note: Most of you can't attempt that, because you live in places like Atlanta, Dallas, or even Midland. If you ever live in a place like Spraberry, feel free.)
So, what would have happened on that morning if my Dad had the habits of many of us, which lead to hurried lives?
He would have gone about his work in a different way, which would have caused him to come home later the previous evening.
Then, we would have had supper later, if together at all, and ended up going to bed later. This would have caused him not to get up around 5:00 a.m. like he always did, which would have meant he would have had less time in the morning and perhaps been grumpy from not getting enough sleep, which would have meant my brothers and I would have gotten out of bed for school later for school that morning and been grumpy ourselves. Then we would have been rushed to get ready and out the door to make it to school in time for the first bell to ring.
There would have been a lot more "Come on, boys!" and a lot less of whatever it was that made him think that day, "Maybe I'll just drive the boys to school in reverse." A lot more impatience, and a lot less laughing. A lot more trying to make sure I didn't upset Dad, and a lot less remembering stories like this 25+ years later.
In the material for our Apprentice Groups, James Bryan Smith says some very interesting things about hurry. He claims that "hurry sickness" is the number one spiritual disease in our culture today, and that "Hurry is not part of a well-lived life." He also passes along advice that Dallas Willard once gave to John Ortberg: "Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life."
A couple of years ago, that piece of advice really troubled me. I could see myself becoming less and less like my Dad, with signs of hurry sickness setting in. As much as we'd like to try to deny it, hurry is lethal to our spiritual lives, and I was feeling its effects.
Things are quite a bit better now, since the big changes in my work roles have resulted in less hurry. I still have plenty to do, and sometimes even have to move fast (well, at least fast for me) to get some of it done, but I have the sense that I'm being much more like my Dad in the way I go about the things I do, and that's very good for me and everyone around me.
I have a good friend whose "relax gene" isn't quite as dominant as mine is, and we've had several conversations where ruthlessly eliminating hurry from our lives has come up. Yet, because he and his wife have been intentional about it, they seem to do it much better than most. I was riding in the car with them a few months ago when it came up again, and his wife said it wonderfully: Before making decisions, she asks herself, "Will doing this cause me to be in a hurry?"
Sure, we can't eliminate everything in our lives that sometimes requires us to move fast. But we can eliminate a lot of it, and my experience so far is that there is absolutely no regret in doing so.
I don't live in Spraberry these days, and driving backwards with my kids would likely result in an accident and multiple traffic tickets. But if I'm unhurried, chances are much better that my kids will have stories to tell in 25 years rather than just remembering me telling them to hurry up.