Tyranny Of The Urgent

My brother Aaron has just sent me an article that I highly recommend you read; especially if you are overworked, stressed out, running ragged, or just plain “too busy”. In his article, Charles E. Hummel explains that our problem of having too little time to do all that we need to do is really a problem of jumbled priorities. You can read the full article here.

We live in constant tension between the urgent and the important. The problem is that the important task seldom must be done today or even this week…But the urgent tasks call for instant action – endless demands pressure every hour and day…The momentary appeal of these tasks seems irresistible and important, and they devour our energy. But in the light of time’s perspective their deceptive prominence fades; with a sense of loss we recall the important task pushed aside. We realize we’ve become slaves to the tyranny of the urgent.

But though we are bound in slavery to this tyranny of the urgent, Hummel reminds us, by way of a quote from A.E. Whitham, that there is freedom in Christ.

“Here in this Man [Jesus] is adequate purpose . . . inward rest, that gives an air of leisure to His crowded life: above all there is in this Man a secret and a power of dealing with the waste-products of life, the waste of pain, disappointment, en-mity, death – turning to divine uses the abuses of man, transforming arid places of pain to fruitfulness, triumphing at last in death, and making a short life of thirty years or so, abruptly cut off, to be a ‘finished’ life. We cannot admire the poise and beauty of this human life, and then ignore the things that made it.”

So how did Jesus the Messiah acheive this properly ordered and finished life? Through radical dependence upon the Father through prayer and the Holy Spirit.

P. T. Forsyth once said, “The worst sin is prayerlessness.” We usually think of murder, adultery, or theft as among the worst. But the root of all sin is self-sufficiency – independence from God.

If we, like Jesus, become radically dependent upon God for the ordering of our days we too can arrive at the end of our earthly time knowing that we have finished the work that He had for us. Hummel offers some ideas for doing this, but most prominently he urges the reader to begin each day, as Christ did, in prayer and rest in the Lord. Pray over your day, and give up the ordering of things to God.

This message came to me from Aaron at a most appropriate time. I am currently struggling with balancing work to provide needed finances, a heavy class load, studies, and time with my family. Yet I find that I too often choose the former over the latter. I am working 16 hour days, only to come home to a sleeping household, and the regret that I have missed yet another day with my wife and child.

I don’t know how I can possibly get everything done that I need to and work any less, but that is because I have been relying too much on me. When I pray for God’s provision, and then immediately try to do it all without him, I am fooling myself. Faith and action must coincide. Petition and practice must align. I know that God is blessing me, and wants to do so even more if I would only let him.

And so with 1,000 pages left to read for class this week, an intensive 3-day class beginning this afternoon, papers to write, exams to study for, Hebrew Scripture to translate, vocabulary to memorize, and work hours and tasks piling up, I am choosing to stop for a moment, and once I have calmed my nerves, I am heading to class by way of the prayer chapel on campus.

It sure will be nice to see my family tonight…and with God ordering my day, I know I will have time to do so. Baruch HaShem!

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