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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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The race to slow down

Start by looking in the right place

In the midst of the busyness of life, we may wonder if there is a word of grace for us. We know there is, but find refreshment by hearing that word of grace again.

Why are so many of us so busy? Theologian Douglas John Hall once suggested it may be because we have bought into the myth of self-mastery. The illusion is that we can achieve balance and gain control of lives that seem out of control.

To achieve self-mastery, according to this myth, we just need to multi-task and have the right personal trainer; the latest Treo or Blackberry; master meditation or yoga; and maintain a low-fat, low-carb, low-calorie, high-nutrition diet. While each of these may contribute to a healthy and balanced life, none will enable us to both maintain our busyness and also “master life.” (See "Busyness: A spiritual issue.")

I do not remember who challenged me a few years ago to reflect more critically on the busyness of my life. He wondered if I keep busy as a way of denying, or at least not thinking about, my mortality. If I stay busy, and particularly if I achieve balance somehow, I think I will live forever!

Striving for balance can be a worthy undertaking. In one sense isn’t that what Jesus called for when he described the greatest commandments in Mark 12:29-31: “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these”?


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