Then Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer and put incense in it, along with burning coals from the altar, and hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them. Wrath has come out from the Lord; the plague has started.” So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped. But 14,700 people died from the plague, in addition to those who had died because of Korah. Then Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance to the tent of meeting, for the plague had stopped.
- Numbers 16:46-50
Obey the king’s command, I say, because you took an oath before God. Do not be in a hurry to leave the king’s presence. Do not stand up for a bad cause, for he will do whatever he pleases. Since a king’s word is supreme, who can say to him, “What are you doing?”
- Ecclesiastes 8:2-4
“[In describing Dallas Willard, who was also tall – a former college basketball player] The other remarkable characteristic of his body was how unhurried it was. Someone said of him once, ‘I’d like to live in his time zone.’ I suppose if the house was on fire, he would have moved quickly to get out of it, but his face and the movements of his body all seemed to say that he had no place else to go and nothing in particular to worry about.
“Many years later I had moved to Chicago. Entering into a very busy season of ministry, I called Dallas to ask him what I needed to do to stay spiritually healthy. I pictured him sitting in that room as we talked. There was a long pause—with Dallas there was nearly always a long pause—and then he said slowly, ‘You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.’ I quickly wrote that down. Most people take notes with Dallas; I have even seen his wife take notes, which my wife rarely does with me.
“‘Okay, Dallas,’ I responded. ‘I’ve got that one. Now what other spiritual nuggets do you have for me? I don’t have a lot of time, and I want to get all the spiritual wisdom from you that I can.’
“’There is nothing else,’ he said, generously acting as if he did not notice my impatience. ‘Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.’”
- John Ortberg, Soul Keeping
In the first Scripture, there were 14,700 people that wished Aaron had hurried a little faster. Dallas Willard does not state that we must never hurry. Hurry, however, is the enemy. Look at the list of irritants that Rev. Swindoll mentioned in yesterday’s article on Irritants Aplenty.
“Traffic jams, Long lines, Misplaced keys, Untrained pets, Stuck zippers, Cold food, Interruptions, Late planes, Tight clothes, Squeaking doors, Incompetence, Flat tires.”
- Charles R. Swindoll, The Finishing Touch
Of these irritants, most relate to being in a hurry. The untrained pet may cause you to get into a hurry to prevent a mess, lessen the mess that has already been caused, or clean up the mess before the house soaks in the stink. Stuck zippers and tight clothes can become irritants by being in a hurry or they can become amplified as an irritant if you are in a hurry. I hurriedly changed clothing one day and my pants came off one leg at a time, literally, due to being a little tight. I looked at what remained and laughed. Now, I knew why they were called a pair of pants. They ripped right next to seem that stitched the left and right pants legs together. I had just played a round of golf while interviewing for a job, and the sweat helped to glue the pant legs to my skin. And they were brand new pants. But since I had been out of work for many months, the loss of a brand-new pair of pants was hard to take.
Cold food, on the list of irritants, may not be an irritant at all with a microwave oven nearby, unless you are in a hurry. The same could almost be true of flat tires, but when the puncture is in the sidewall, instead of where it can easily be patched, the irritation increases.
Squeaking doors and incompetence can be irritants with or without hurry.
My wife commandeered the new smart TV and she binge watches television shows and specific themes of movies all day. I can hardly see the point, but then when we go out to pick up dinner on a rare occasion and I am checking my watch, because a favorite television show is about to start, I get the point. My wife does not have that “hurry” in her life. Her shows are always there, and the episode that she was watching when we left will resume where she last stopped the television.
The “late plane” in Rev. Swindoll’s list was a constant fear in my working life. When you are flying halfway around the world, a flight being delayed for an hour when making connections could lead to being delayed an extra day. I have had luggage lost due to plane delays and then flying stand-by on other flights in order to get where I needed to go.
But then, when you meet someone who is never in a hurry, you must immediately readjust your priorities, or you might become ill trying to speed things up. Once, I flew into Kolkata, Bengal, India. We, my boss and I, arrived at about dawn. Our lead for the Kolkata office of the company was supposed to be meeting us as we exited the airport and there was no sign with our names on it, among the many. I had his cellphone number, but I had no telephone. Luckily, the sky cap had a phone and knew enough English to understand my plight. I called up Raj (not his name, but for convenience …). He had forgotten to check our itineraries and he had not yet had breakfast. He apologized. He had us booked into the Hyatt. He suggested that we should hail a taxi and tell them the “Hyatt.” Even if they did not speak English, we would get there at little cost. My boss, while I was making the call, had exchanged some American cash for Indian Rupees. Some street urchins wrestled the luggage from our hands. We climbed into a taxi, and I paid one US dollar to each of the half dozen urchins to pay the ransom for our luggage, and they bubbled with excitement. As we travelled to the Hyatt, my boss ranted and raved. We were here early enough to catch a train and get to the steel mill today. We could set up the classroom this afternoon and start teaching tomorrow. Since I had been busy outside the airport’s departure area, I had to use the hotel’s currency exchange – getting a better rate than my boss had gotten.
We each took morning naps in our rooms, awakened by a phone call to meet Raj in the lobby. Raj suggested that we visit their brand-new office building. The boss ranted that we were here in India to do a job in Jamshedpur, Jharkhand, India, not visit his offices in Kolkata. Our ultimate destination was two-hours by train. We were losing time. Raj said that the two of us, he, and his bride (the wedding ceremony took over a week to complete, and unknown to us, the next phase was in Jamshedpur where she had been a teacher in a missionary school, and we were to be the special guests of the groom), we were scheduled for an air-conditioned cabin in tomorrow’s train, leaving Kolkata late morning.
If you are wondering, I have no idea what went on during the ceremony before the wedding reception, but then I was placed in a crowd of local people, having been taught English at the local Baptist missionary school, with questions about what Baptists were like in the USA. For all the Baptists reading this, I was kind in my answers.
What I failed to mention was that we were to teach for two weeks, but since they scheduled the training for the week beginning with the American Independence Day, they allowed us to fly on Tuesday and start the week on Thursday, working the weekend to make up the difference. But we had to leave on the Fourth of July anyway because the flight lost a day while travelling. India is presently twelve and a half hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time in the USA. The flight had two changes of planes, in Washington, DC, USA (Dulles) and in London, England (Heathrow). Each change of flights had a significant layover, but that was out of our control. We left on Monday and arrived Wednesday morning. Now, according to Raj’s schedule, we would arrive at our destination on Thursday, early afternoon when the customer had said to start Thursday morning.
My boss objected to the delays, but he did not have to readjust the schedule. That was all on me. He only taught the lessons that I assigned to him and answered a few of the questions during class that I had no answer for. The boss being much younger than I (and I had recently developed some medical conditions, Grave’s disease for one), he conducted most of the tours around the equipment while I explained the human-machine interface computer screens, detailed the start-up and shutdown procedures, and showed how to perform some of the necessary maintenance procedures. That way, I did not have to walk so much, and I would not be far from the air-conditioned control room. I melt when the temperature reaches the high 80s Fahrenheit (low 30s C), but we arrived just after the monsoons that year in India. Before the monsoons, the temperature at our destination was over 120 Fahrenheit (low 50s C) and they had declared a heat emergency, shutting down the local schools. It was hot while we were there, just not that hot.
We arrived during the lunch siesta, or whatever it is called in India. We were careful getting off the train as there was a dead body on the ground next to our exit door. A member of the poor and homeless in Jamshedpur had fallen asleep on the hot concrete of the train station and failed to wake up. They had not removed the body, but they had placed a sheet over it.
We checked into our hotel, and we asked Raj if we could immediately go to the steel mill. He resisted. We were scheduled to get our photo ID the next morning on Friday, and then do the customary courtesy summary of what we would teach with the mill superintendent level personnel the next day on Saturday. Training could start the following Monday. This time, I got a little too loud. It was my job to understand the differences in cultures and play politics with the customer’s big wigs, but I had reached that last straw moment. Besides, I was on brand new medications, and I did not have enough medicine to have my trip extended. We had to start teaching in the morning and teach throughout the weekend, or we would never meet our goals. Besides, our flights home were the following Saturday morning.
Raj made some calls. We got our photo IDs after the rest period was over, and I pitched our curriculum to their management afterwards, mostly with hand-drawn charts since I was making it up on the fly. They had already purchased the training with enough details to avoid this presentation, but again – different cultures. This was just a formality that I had performed before. The superintendents conferred and said that no classroom was available until next week. I explained that we could start teaching at the furnace instead, doing maintenance procedures, and then do the classroom training afterward, when the classroom was then available. It was highly irregular, but I would make it work. Since I had an answer to each of their delays, they miraculously had a classroom the next morning. A classroom that until two minutes before did not exist – again, different cultures. The training that should have started on Monday, started on Friday. After Saturday’s class, it was announced that there would be a power outage at our classroom on Sunday. In other words, the students formed a minor rebellion. We had yet another day off, and I got to attend church in India. During those two days of class with a two-hour break for lunch and morning and afternoon tea times, we got to know who the responsible managers in the class were. I especially befriended a Sikh, a friendly, yet sinister, guy, but I also knew many of the Sikh customs from my mentor on such things. I knew that I could trust him as long as I showed him proper respect. The practical hands-on training was done in split teams, and it became, after we left to go home, one half of the class teaching the other half what they had learned and vice versa. While we were getting delays, everyone else was also, and this kept those students busy for another week or so.
We had started four days late. We only added an extra day to the schedule, thus ten days of training squeezed into seven days of instruction. The students had been prepared, having more questions asked than I had ever faced in any previous training program (and thus where the boss came in handy, having performed technical studies on many of their farfetched questions).
The point is that we finished on time. I may have been calm on the surface, but like the duck in the pond, my feet were peddling like mad beneath the surface, rearranging hours upon hours of classroom lectures, practical examples, illustrations, etc.
I felt like I had accomplished something miraculous as we boarded our flight home, after being scammed out of our train ticket money by the hotel concierge and barely getting back to Kolkata. Maybe God was the one who arranged the short Indian fellow to sit behind me for the 7-8 hours from Kolkata to Heathrow, kicking my seat back the entire time, unable to rest, and at times hitting the sweet spot that caused a great deal of pain. In the classroom, I had the knowledge and the skill to pull off a good job, even with reduced hours to get it accomplished, but God is the One in charge of the miracles. And for that job, we needed several. I had to thank the Lord that the miracles happened. At one point, I even taught a maintenance procedure class underneath a shower of sparks from welding spray. I wasn’t worried or hurried. It was a good test of my fire-resistant clothing, and the class was impressed that I never missed a beat.
And by the way, one of Rev. Swindoll’s irritants bit us upon our return to Dulles airport, a late plane that turned into a cancelled flight. I got home about 2:00am the next morning, and that was by flying standby, hours after my boss returned. He boarded an earlier stand by flight, the last available seat. By then, I nearly dropped to the ground to kiss the pavement. I was so thrilled that I was finally home.
Dallas Willard is right. We should not bog down our journey of faith by hurry. We must do what we must do while understanding that God is sovereign. Why hurry? God already knows what is going to happen, and He is in control.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.