I did something today I haven’t done for years. I sat in an easy chair in the lounge of a Rwandan B&B on a March morning soaking in the soothing warmth of sunshine, the ceaseless river of birdsong, the pleasant chatter of visiting community members, and I released the burden of busyness. I even almost dozed off.
It wasn’t John Mark Comer’s The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, that lay open and folded across my chest. It wasn’t the completion and release from weeks of teaching emerging and executive leaders in this amazingly resilient country. It wasn’t the sleepless nights caused by irritable bowels that kept me from the bed. It wasn’t even the fact that I’d stepped away from 24 years as a senior pastor and 18 years as a missionary. It was somehow the permission for one morning to not define my spiritual and physical self as “busy.”
A plane roars by overhead as it lands at the nearby airport. It reminds me that tomorrow I will be returning to Canada to face the next phase of my life. What will that be like?
I have always loved Jesus’ prompting “come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Perhaps I have loved the sound of it but not the practice of it. My first born, type A, driven personality pulls me toward “consistent productivity” rather than some sense of inner shalom.
I have a PhD in Counseling. I know the routines, the reasonings, the rhythms for resiliency and survival in a busy world. I understand the struggles of being human, of responding to deadlines and endless requests. I’ve written thirteen books and authored countless stories and articles and reports and missionary letters. I know how to use daylight profitably.
My new friend, David Bentall, challenged me during his trip out here to Rwanda. “Sleep is your most important friend.” He delighted to take a twenty-minute nap in the day and ensured that his schedule involved eight hours of deep sleep at night. That flew in the face of a seminary prof’s advice that if I got more than four hours of sleep I was wasting my life. I’d lived that mantra for forty years. I knew I was ready for a change.
I’d already been wrestling with Pete Scazzero’s mesmerizing sway over my colleagues with his focus on Sabbath Delight. I agreed with the rhythm of sabbath, work, sabbath, work but my perspective on Sabbath was significantly different. Jeff Haanen’s book on An Uncommon Guide to Retirement, challenged my perspective on retirement and the secular view that retirement was for personal leisure and pleasure. Perhaps today, I was simply admitting that I was weary of so much output.
I chat with the B&B owner’s husband, a former ambassador. He’s on his way out to play golf. That sounds so inviting. Something I haven’t had time for in several decades. I chat with another guest from Ghana who has become friends with the hostess here. She is waiting for a conversation with her friend and has arisen late. “I came just to talk with my friend,” she says. “I’m in no hurry.” It all seems so enticing.
I head out for a walk dressed in my shirt sleeves and slacks. It was warm half an hour ago. Dark clouds are forming over Kigali but thankfully not the ones that gathered in times past. I continue to the section of small shacks posing as shops alongside the road. Thunder sounds overhead and a strong wind picks up. The long stream of people I’ve been saying “Muraho” to begin to disappear. Even I can tell the obvious. I duck into a small café where the owner is playing pool with a patron. Several of the items on the menu are no longer being offered. I order chicken wings and pull out my books. Niagara Falls is redirected over the city in a thundering roar and every motorcycle, bike, car and pedestrian vacate the river that is pouring down the tarmac into the half meter deep ditches on the side of every road. Twenty minutes later my coke arrives and I nurse it along as an hour passes. The torrential flood continues.
No one is in a hurry here. I ask about the food and they assure me that it will be ten minutes more. Twenty minutes pass before it arrives. Sixty-five minutes for chicken wings. There was no place I could have gone so why not? Chunks of chicken formed around chicken bones with tin foil knobs arrive. Along with a nice portion of fresh chips. A nice meal. I’m glad I had my books to pass the time. Several good chapters have filled my mind while my stomach stayed empty. I’m the only patron.
I read about “hurry sickness” and realize I have had it even more than my amoeba. While I don’t have all the symptoms of irritability, hypersensitivity, restlessness, workaholism, emotional numbness, out of order priorities, lack of self care, escapist behaviour, slippage of spiritual disciplines and isolation, I have enough that the verdict is clear. While my amoeba responds to pills there seems to be no quick solution for this type of sickness.
Then Comer reminds me that God has gifted me with limitations for a reason. My body, mind, gifts, personality and emotional wiring, family of origin, socioeconomic origin, education and careers, season of life and lifespan all are boundaries and guardrails to keep me in God’s will for my life. And so is a torrential downpour in the middle of a city where I sit alone. So, I can rest, cast all my cares on him, wait patiently and trust the one who holds me up.
The rains slow, people appear again, many with umbrellas. I go to pay the bill. I am assured that the menu is old and the prices are incorrect. I am offered the new price at twenty percent more. I pay and head out. While the sprinkles continue it is warm enough and my book’s wet hard cover will wipe clean when I get home. I am not in a hurry to get anywhere. I’ll be home soon enough. I’ve travelled half a world away to find out something I should have known years ago.