An Unhurried Life

Dr. Sachi Nakamura

(Christian books translator, JCFN Board Member)


It was in the first year in our marriage, some thirty years ago. My husband and I went to see a movie.

The movie theater was very crowded. While I went to buy some popcorns and drinks in the lobby, my husband proceeded to the theater to secure two seats. The lobby was very crowded and the line was long. I looked around to find a shorter line. I queued to a line that I thought shorter but the line did not move. So I switched to another line, which looked moving much faster than the previous one. Then that line stopped moving. Frustrated, I went back and forth, switching lines. It was already the show time. I had not gotten any popcorn. Perhaps others had already purchased what they wanted or just simply given up. They went into the theater. I realized I was the last customer in the lobby. Hopping around to catch a faster line, I became the last one! It may sound like a comedy to you. But this is a true story.

I should have learned from that experience. But it is not easy to get rid of my habit to select a line that seemed to go faster. At the grocery store cashier, or at the ticket office in the train station, I continue to try queuing for the shortest line, the fastest line. On a congested freeway, I would switch lanes to be on the fastest track. I would repeatedly nudge my husband and children to make haste.


Pastor John Ortberg named this as “Hurry Sickness” in his book, “The Life You’ve Always Wanted.” He writes,

“If we have a really bad case of hurry sickness, then even after we get in line we keep track of the person who would have been me in the other line. If we get through and the person who would have been me is still waiting, we are elated. We’ve won. But if the alter-me is walking out of the store and we’re still in line, we feel depressed. We have hurry sickness.”

He is talking about me! Honestly, I behave like that even on the freeway. How about you?


“You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”


This is what Dallas Willard said. Dallas has been a mentor for Rev. Ortberg and has coached many more for their spiritual formation.


“You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry form your life.”


It is a home truth. I am always in a hurry, eager to know what comes next, and seek the immediate result. I am constantly thinking what might be the next step and that makes me restless. It sounds nice to hear that I am thinking ahead and getting prepared. But actually I am not tasting “the present”. I feel like constantly competing with someone invisible.

Unfortunately, this habit does not do any good to the process of our spiritual formation where we are supposed to be transformed to be like Christ.


Rev. Willard said,

“Haste has worry, fear, and anger as close associates; it is a deadly enemy of kindness, and hence love. …for the most past our hurry is really based upon pride, self-importance, fear, and lack of faith, and rarely upon the production of anything of true value for anyone.” (The Great Omission, by Dallas Willard)

What a profound observation! When we are in a hurry, it is surely hard to be generous, kind, and peaceful. In fact, when we are rushing, it is hard to love others.


In 1970s, two psychology scholars at Princeton University conducted a famous experiment called, “Good Samaritan Study.” (Link).  In this experiment, a seminary student sets off to take care of some business. On his way, he bumps into a person laid on the ground. They observed if the seminarian help the person on the ground or not. Every participating seminarian was given different conditions.

One seminarian was told, “You have ample time to take care of your business.” Another was told, “You will be late to take care of your business.” One seminarian’s business was to preach on the parable of Good Samaritan, who helped the person on the ground. And another seminarian’s task was to talk about something not related with Bible.

90% of the seminarians who were told they did not have much time passed by the person on the ground. More than 60% of those with ample time reached out to the fallen person. Even those who were assigned to preach on the parable of Good Samaritan, if they were in a hurry, they ignored the person on the ground and kept going. The study concluded that the decisive factor to see if the seminarian helped the person on the ground or not was not relevant to their conviction of faith. It was rather determined by if they were in a hurry or not.

When we are in a hurry, we fail to be kind to other or to love them.


I am a chronicle patient of Hurry Sickness. But I do not want to remain as I am. Of course, there is a time when I must hurry for love. But if I realize my hurrying becomes a barrier to love, to be kind to other, I try to slow down. If I see all queues at the cashier are long, I dare choose the longest line. I dare yield my turn to the one behind me. This gives me a chance to turn frustration of time to wait into an opportunity to think of God’s will. That reminds me that I am an apprentice of Jesus. When I catch myself in time to slow down, I feel God’s blessing pouring into me. I feel God’s smile. I realize there is far more important thing than leaving the grocery store a few minutes earlier, or leaving the ticketing gate a step earlier than others.


“You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry form your life.”


It will still be a long journey for me to be cured from Hurry Sickness. With God’s mercy and blessings, I hope to eliminate hurry from my life.

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