Permission to Be Un-Spectacular
I am an accidental farm girl. I never intended to live in a place where pigs outnumber people by a significant margin, stray cows trample your rosebushes, and the school hosts a “Drive Your Tractor to School Day” every spring. In fact, my intention as a child growing up in Iowa was to escape it!
I was raised in a small town, nestled down by the North Raccoon River. It was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of town. The closest McDonald’s or JCPenney was a half hour away. I wanted skyscrapers, streetlights, subways, and swarms of people on humming sidewalks. When I was eighteen, those dreams seemed within reach—with enough hustle, of course. My acceptance to university felt like a ticket to freedom.
It was the first day of college orientation at Iowa State University in Ames. Hundreds of us sat in fold-down auditorium chairs with padded seats while a motivational speaker paced in front of us, her high heels clicking with each step. “What do you want to be famous for?” she asked.
Her question hung in the air. She paused long enough for us to fantasize about our answers. Visions of who we would be at age twenty-five, thirty-five, forty-five materialized. Although fame had never been a goal I’d articulated, the question awakened something in me, perhaps in all of us.
She had just delivered a sparkling invitation to be spectacular.
For a girl who grew up in obscurity—with a cornfield in her backyard and silos in her skyline—the idea was incredibly appealing. Who doesn’t long to be known?
In that moment, I began to dream about my future self as an award-winning journalist, perhaps on Capitol Hill. The daydream offered the promise of a Pulitzer, and I believed in its possibility. I would make a mark on the world. People wearing neckties would answer my calls and care about my opinion. Of course, my life would also be characterized by charity and decency. Some future husband and I would create extraordinarily bright and well-behaved children who would eat all their vegetables. And if I got my spiritual act together, I would finally take hold of the faith that my Sunday School teachers had tried to instill in me.
And then, in the years stacked on top of years, I ran fast and furious toward the making of a spectacular life.
Back in the college auditorium, my barely-adult self didn’t really want fame. I simply wanted a life of meaning—a noble aim planted within each of us by God himself.
We all crave a meaningful life. This is good and holy. But in the quest for meaning, we get mixed up, turned around, and accidentally end up constantly in a hurry. We rush to grow successful businesses, a more potent faith, robust bank accounts, and, if we are parents, spiritually-grounded children. We climb proverbial mountains and dream bigger dreams. Any obstacles can be obliterated swiftly by the right amount of self-help dynamite.
That sort of existence may, indeed, lead us somewhere spectacular. But the costs are high: we end up feeling rushed, often anxious and out of sorts, fearful that we are falling behind.
Here, the hurried heart is born and then nurtured in a million ways by a culture that idolizes bigger, harder, faster. This was the life I accidentally chose—a life of running hard, scaling fast, and chasing results.
Do you know the bruising, try-hard way of the hurried heart?
A hurried heart manifests itself in both big and little ways—from the way you feel about your life’s worth to the way you respond to being stuck in a long line at Starbucks. It’s the way you react when you hop on Instagram, see everybody winning, and conclude that your contributions seem meaningless.
Take a moment to reflect on your life and consider whether you show signs of a hurried heart:
- You feel like you are working harder than ever but can never get ahead.
- Periods of slowness make you feel uneasy, like you should be doing something productive.
- You check your phone immediately upon waking up.
- You get frustrated in traffic or in long lines at grocery stores.
- You rarely make time for play.
- You feel a sense of urgency to get things done; sometimes this keeps you up at night.
- You can’t remember the last time you felt bored.
- You think if a person is bored, she might be a little lazy.
- You pride yourself on your ability to multitask.
- You never feel you’ve done enough.
- Delays or unexpected obstacles upset or irritate you.
- You’ve asked yourself questions like, “Does anything I do even matter?” or “What do I have to show for my life?”
Not all of these will resonate, but even if a few do, you probably have a hurried heart. Let’s be honest: almost all of us do, but we don’t know how to tap the brakes.
We want to believe a slower life is possible but fear we will miss out if we don’t keep the pace. So we bend to the pressure to go big and get public, and that’s exactly the moment when we miss the gift of slowness, even the gift of obscurity. We chase after something that keeps slipping through our fingers. This grasp at an elusive state of spectacular-ness never ends, for it always seems just out of reach. Which means everybody keeps moving a little faster to touch a moving target.
Adult Jennifer understands what College Jennifer didn’t yet know in that auditorium. We don’t need permission to be spectacular.
We need permission to be un-spectacular.
We need permission to stop trying to build something bigger, to have the right conversations with the right people. To stop sucking in our guts, to stop waiting for the kids’ nap time so we can finally get to our important work. We need permission to stop idolizing brawn and might. We need permission to take our time, to marvel, to wonder and ponder and savor, and to move at the un-hurried pace of Christ. Time is not a commodity to be used but a gem to be treasured.
We need permission to grow slow.
Taken from Growing Slow: Lesson on Un-Hurrying Your Heart From an Accidental Farm Girl by Jennifer Dukes Lee Copyright © 2021 by Zondervan. Used by permission of Zondervan, www.zondervan.com.