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The Tyranny of the Urgent

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Blame it on my New York birth. Blame it on my medical background. But man and woman, I move fast! I remember my tennis coach shaking his head as I returned his volley. He came to the net and pointed his racket at me. "You’re wasting your money by paying me," he said. "All you need is a recording of my voice saying, 'Slow down.'"

I can find Bible verses to proof-text my urgent lifestyle. Didn’t the shepherds hasten to find the babe in the manger (Luke 2:16)? Didn’t the women run quickly to tell the disciples about the empty tomb (Matthew 28:8)? Fast-lane Christians can find verses aplenty to urge us on our way. On the other hand, even God can move slowly. Our Lord is slow to anger (Nehemiah 9:17). James advises us to be equally slow with our tempers (James 1:19).

So, which is it: fast lane or slow? How do I find scriptural help to guide the speed of my sneakers? If an angel tells me to move quickly, I’ll move as fast as the women moved on Easter day. If, however, my tongue is my body part underway, I had better take it slow (James 1:19). James compares our tongues to a beast of burden in need of a bridle (James 1:26).

I’m always suspicious of a fast-talker who has to have my answer right away. If I can’t take time to weigh the pros and cons, it’s not the right invitation for me. The good feeling I’m having may be my response to flattery rather than what is right. Take the example of the unfortunate king of Ai. His troops hastened into battle without stopping to strategize (Joshua 8:14). His soldiers ran into an ambush. In the business world we would say Ai failed to do due diligence.

A few years back, an organization a thousand miles from where I live called and asked me to look at a job. After a short visit with me, the director offered me an interesting position and wanted my answer on the spot. This job could combine both my medical background and spiritual interests. The offer excited me. What’s more, a friend in that city was moving and his town-house would be available at just the time this job would begin. To take advantage of this attractive job and the super digs, I would have to act promptly. I told the director I would give his offer serious consideration and that I looked forward to hearing more details. I never heard from the man again. After I had flown home, he received an exciting job offer himself from another organization and jumped at the chance.

I choose to pass on the tyranny of the urgent. Unless an angel gives me direct marching orders, both my feet and my tongue will wait upon my brain and the Lord.

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