Book Review: The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer

What could you do with an extra 1916 hours in your year?

What could you do with an extra 1916 hours in your year? Finish that project that’s been lying in pieces in the garage? Paint the house? Write that book? Read more books? What about train for that big run or restore a car? That’s a lot of time… It’s actually about one-third of a year! And that’s the amount of time the average Australian spends watching TV, on social media, streaming music, and streaming online video content. Shocking? Lower than you expected? About right for your life? It shocked me!

Words: Jo Leutton Read: 0 - 5 mins Published: 31 March 2021

I have been on this journey to examine productivity, learning, stewardship and the rhythms of the life of a disciple of Jesus; I wanted to see what intersection there was with things like the “10,000 Hour Rule” and Matthew 11:28-30 (see The Message version – it’s my favourite presentation of this passage). I’m still not sure where all of this will lead, but I’m interested to see what it looks like to live in our modern, hyper-paced world with 24-hour media cycles, on-demand everything, and all that stuff!

I don’t want to become a luddite, or sound like an old man, but as I journey further, I feel like there were things that we could learn from the slowing down of life, or at least a simplified life. I feel like I had to learn these lessons in my childhood, and they are lost from our existence today. I don’t have to wait to rewind a cassette; it’s all digital – praise the Lord! I don’t have to return videos to Blockbuster (what’s Blockbuster, I hear you ask? There used to be stores that you had to drive to so you could get a movie to watch at home! Weird, right?). I miss that my kids will never have to do that, or if they do things like this, it’s ironic or ‘vintage chic’. But it’s a better life: there’s no more need for a teenager to scrimp and save to get that new album from that band you love; it’s all available for a few bucks a month. And I mean, it’s ALL available!!! Deep cuts, rare and unreleased; it’s an audiophile’s golden age! But I digress…

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer.

I had come across John Mark Comer on a podcast with Mark Sayers from Red Church in Melbourne. John Mark is a pastor and author from Portland, Oregon (hipster heartland!). He’s gone from the A-Type, driven, mega-church pastor to a life of simplicity, following biblical rhythms and ancient practices. Which sounds both attractive and horrifying, in equal measure.

He’s most recent book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, takes us partly though his journey of discovery: a revelation of the toxic nature of the culture of hurry that the western world not just promotes, but is marinading in daily. And he speaks to this culture with the response of establishing a ‘rule of life’. What is that, I hear you ask? Great question! But let’s step back a little…

The above statistics about the amount of time (let alone resource!) we spend on media daily, speak to the more poisonous culture of distraction, compounded by the hurry, that draws us away from the good and healthy, and attempts (and often successes) in selling us the counterfeit, the quick and the disposable: food, sex, entertainment, comfort, fulfillment, joy, just about everything.

Comer takes us through the process of diagnosing the problem, and I can heartily confirm that it spoke to me, and I had (foolishly) thought that I’d been doing pretty well in not falling for the culture of distraction and hurry. Thankfully, he doesn’t leave us there; he takes us through his own tried and true process of establishing a rule of life; a set of principles and practices that direct, guide and protect what is important, essential and divinely provided for the flourishing of life in God.

And no surprise: these actually aren’t his ideas! These are ancient practices, tried and tested over the centuries within Christian communities all over the globe. These are spiritual disciplines that reduce hurry, quiet distraction, fight the disposable and consumer culture that bombards us daily, and bring us back to the most important thing: relationships (with God, others and ourselves). I found myself reading, agreeing, and being totally outraged that I was just like everyone else around, and that the answers are what I already knew, I just hadn’t been self-aware enough to put them into practice. But (and this is key) Comer presents us with the need for and the fruit of these practices and shares his own experiences of them.

In a response to this encouragement and conviction from the Holy Spirit, my family has re-engaged with a Sabbath day (we’re practicing, some weeks we fail, but more and more we’re finding space to find each other again). We’ve simplified our lives; in fact, trips to the dump and the goodwill bins have been encroaching on our sabbath, but at least we’re doing it together!

Comer writes in a casual and engaging style, that speaks to me in my forties, as well as millennials and boomers; he’s managed to capture the voice of the Spirit in calling the family of God back to the core practices of our discipleship to Jesus.

I would recommend anyone to read this, but particularly if this past season of life has left you feeling disoriented, dissatisfied or disconnected from yourself, your community or God. Definitely 5 out of 5!

“If you want a holistic approach to slowing down and simplifying your life, this book is for you. John Mark Comer practically and simply provides biblical solutions to the unrest that is found in this world, the church, and our very souls. This book helped me clarify areas of hurry in my day and week and provided a framework that has been passed down through the church for the edification and building up of believers.”

- Pastor Scott McKinnon

“The irony of reading a booking on slowing down was that I kept getting interrupted trying to read it! In a world that makes us believe we can’t detach from media and the consistent demands on our time and personal space, it is refreshing to hear of someone who has successfully done so. It’s encouraging to be reminded that God’s guidebook for life truly does still apply in today’s world – digital noise and all.”

- Aimee Cowan

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