Bible Gateway interviewed John Mark Comer (@johnmarkcomer) about his book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World (WaterBrook, 2019).
Why does a person have to be ruthless when eliminating hurry from their lives?
John Mark Comer: Because the overwhelming tide of Western culture is toward hurry, busyness, overwhelm, distraction, anxiety, and exhaustion. You can’t “dabble” in hurry, you have to wage a kind of war against the “spirit of the age.” We’re facing an odd confluence of digital capitalism, secular assumptions, human vulnerability, and spiritual temptation that leads us away from a Psalm 23 kind of life in the kingdom to one of hurry and overload.
Describe your addiction to being busy and how you realized you needed to slow down.
John Mark Comer: I basically had an early mid-life crisis (or is quarter-life crisis officially a thing now?), and burned out. And more importantly, I realized I had stalled-out in my spiritual journey toward becoming a person of love. When I first heard Dallas Willard’s famous line about how hurry is “the great enemy of spiritual life in our day” and “you must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life,” it struck a deep chord, and planted the seed in my mind for a different kind of life.
How is being busy considered a badge of honor in our culture and how is it antithetical to being a Jesus follower?
John Mark Comer: Busy is a moniker for important. When we say, “I’m good, just busy,” what most of us mean is, “Hey, I’m important! I matter! I’m not insignificant.”
But as followers of Jesus, we should be getting our sense of love and identity from the theological and experiential reality that we are “in Christ”—not from anything we do or don’t do.
What’s the difference between “unhealthy busy” and “healthy busy”?
John Mark Comer: There’s a healthy—or at least normal—kind of busy that just means you have a lot to do, because your life is generative and you’re not wasting it watching TV all day long. But there’s a far more common, unhealthy, and even toxic kind of busy—what Ronald Rolheiser calls “pathological busyness,” as in, a pathogen spreading disease in a society. The essence of unhealthy busy is too much to do and not enough time, so the only way to cram it all in is to hurry—to speed up our minds and bodies, and relationships and interactions with people to a frenetic pace that’s incompatible with love.
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What are the spiritual disciplines you explain in the book?
John Mark Comer: I name four that I find especially helpful in the war on hurry:
- Silence and solitude
- Simplicity and
I think of them as counter-habits to the hurry, overload, and distraction of our culture. They’re also all very fun and life-giving, which is nice.
How should the Bible be read in an unhurried life?
John Mark Comer: Slowly!
Seriously, while there’s a time and place for reading large sections of Scripture in one sitting, Joshua 1 and Psalm 1 (which function as the “cannonical seams”—in the language of Dr. John Sailhammer—between the Torah and the Prophets, and the Prophets and the Writings) envision the ideal Bible reader as reading slowly throughout the day; a kind of unhurried listening. What my friend Tim Mackie calls “Jewish meditation literature.” If you think the Bible is a bit confusing, part of that is because it’s actually designed to be read slowly and mulled over.
If the answer to busyness isn’t more time, what is it?
John Mark Comer: To slow down and simplify our life around what really matters. For us as apprentices of Jesus, this means a life of abiding as the driving priority.
What do you mean “as a trellis is to a vine, a rule of life is to abiding”?
John Mark Comer: Early followers of Jesus used the language of a rule of life: which I define as a schedule and set of practices and relational rhythms to order your life around beginning with Jesus, becoming like Jesus, and doing what he would do if he were you, as you live in alignment with your deepest desires.
Some scholars argue the original word for rule (regula in Latin) was used for a trellis in a vineyard. Either way, the metaphor works. For a vine to bear fruit, it needs a trellis: a kind of support structure to hold it up off the ground, give it space to thrive, and lead it in a desired direction, otherwise it’ll bear a fraction of the fruit it’s capable of, and be far more prone to disease or vulnerable to wild animals. In the same way, for us to “bear fruit” as Jesus intended in John 15-17, we need some kind of a “trellis”—or rule of life—to order our lives around, abiding and indexing our hearts in the direction of fruit.
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
John Mark Comer: Where to start! Psalm 23? Psalm 63? I do honestly love John 15. John used to be one of my least favorite portions of Scripture just because it’s so hard to understand, but I’ve come to deeply love John’s story of Jesus and Jesus’ teachings in the upper room discourse especially.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App and Bible Audio App?
John Mark Comer: I use all of the site every week to write my sermons, so I’m grateful. I also love audio Bibles, as I think hearing large portions of the Bible read out loud is a great exercise, and how much of the Bible was originally designed to be experienced. I don’t personally use the Bible Gateway App as I like to read away from my phone, but if I was less distractible, I’m sure it would love it!
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
John Mark Comer: Just to repeat that Bible reading is really best—like all spiritual disciplines—when you’re not looking at the clock and in a hurry. Let the boredom or anxiety and distraction wash over you, take time to settle, and then read, slowly.
Bio: John Mark Comer lives, works, and writes in the urban core of Portland, Oregon, with his wife, Tammy, and their three children: Jude, Moses, and Sunday. He is the pastor for teaching and vision at Bridgetown Church and has a Master’s degree in biblical and theological studies from Western Seminary. John Mark is also the author of God Has a Name, Garden City, Loveology, and My Name Is Hope.
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