No rest for the hurried

Ah, Sunday.  A day of Sabbath rest for our weary bodies and troubled souls.

As long as you stay off the freeway.

As a Southern California commuter, I’m all too familiar with gridlock–the bizarre, existential irony of thousands upon thousands of individuals in their smog-spewing metal vehicles, slouching toward work or crawling home.

Sunday morning traffic, however, is blessedly light, a fact that still leaves me a little conflicted. On the one hand, I enjoy having a bit of open road for a change.

On the other, I wonder if it would ever be possible for the freeways to be gridlocked with people all trying to get to church on time.

Nah.

A few Sundays ago, I had a 30+ mile commute to get to the church where I was scheduled to preach that morning. Traffic was moving briskly and there was plenty of space. I settled in to enjoy the drive, lazily reviewing the sermon in my mind.

But then I glanced in my rearview mirror. With all the open space out on the asphalt, a driver was still tailgating me. Trying to let go of my feelings of annoyance, I moved over, and the driver roared by. Soon, he (she?) was tailgating and swerving around others.

And he wasn’t the only one. Despite the fact that everyone had room to drive at speed limit (okay, okay, well over the speed limit), it still wasn’t enough. Throughout the entire commute, I watched as one driver after another made the freeway into his or her own personal dragstrip.

Sabbath rest. Many of us, if we think about Sabbath at all, think of it as a break from work, a chance to step away from the grind. And to some extent, that’s true.

But as I watched drivers dash about on Sunday morning, I thought, The problem isn’t out there, it’s in here, in our hearts, our spirits. It’s hurry sickness.

I’ve sometimes wondered, Why do people complain so much about their jobs, and then drive like they can’t wait to get there? 

It’s hurry sickness, a condition of the spirit. It makes us drive like demons. And it makes otherwise loving families fight in the car over whose fault it is that they’re running late for church.

The problem isn’t our work per se. The problem is the way our work forms us, the way we are shaped by a culture of endless striving, of always being in a rush to get to the next destination, the next thing on the schedule.

If we’re to enjoy Sabbath rest — whether on a Sunday or at any other time — it won’t be because we we’re in a hurry to get somewhere. Rather, it will be because we know that the most important place to be is where God is.

That can be anywhere. But we’d have to slow down enough to notice.