Many of us suffer from what Meyer Friedman called “Hurry Sickness.” In his book, Treating Type A Behavior-and Your Heart, he defines it as “a continuous struggle … to accomplish or achieve more and more things or participate in more and more events in less and less time.”
How do you know if you have it? Here is some of the items on his self-test:
– If the person equal distance in the line next to you at the grocery store leaves the store while you’re still in line, you feel depressed.
– If you don’t get three phone calls and lunch completed during your short trip in the car, you don’t feel accomplished.
– If you speak sharp words to your spouse and children even when you know they’ve done nothing to deserve them.
– If you hurry your children along. Setting up mock races (“Okay kids, let’s see who can take a bath the fastest”) in order to help you get through it faster.
– If you find you have stopped caring for people. (I heard about a cartoon of a business man talking on the phone while looking at his calendar: “No, Thursday won’t work for me. How about Never? Is never good for you?”)
– If you flop into bed with no sense of gratitude and wonder for the day, just fatigue.
If this is you: You may be attempting to do so much and to be so much that the hurry sickness is indeed taking its toll on you. Stop, take a step back and look at what it is you are building. Could it be but an attempt to recreate Babel’s tower? Remember that old story tucked away in Genesis 11?
“Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. 2 It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.” And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. 4 They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” (11:1-4)
There are many parallels between the industrious people of that day and those with “hurry sickness” today.
1. They weren’t building something that was going to last.
In verse 3, Moses states that the builders weren’t even using materials that would stand the test of time. Brick was used in the place of stone and tar was used in the place of mortar. If the successful world you are creating is built on the shoddy materials of poor relationships, awful health habits and ill-fated bridge burning, your tower is destined to collapse around you. Your fate will be as the fate of the builders in Shinar: An uncompleted tower. Success is elusive even to those who pursue it with the most zeal.
2. They were overreaching.
Verse 4 says that the group was interested in building a tower whose top will reach into heaven. (A gate to God if you will.) Now that is ambitious! You might think: “What’s wrong with ambition? Isn’t that how things are done in today’s world?” Well the problem with ambition is when it causes you to attempt to succeed beyond the healthy boundaries God sets for us. It is okay to dream, but what happens when our dreams punch through the sky? When our ego is not satisfied with the success God sends our way but craves still more? When ever elusive success begins to unravel the threads of the rest of our existence?
3. Their Goal was to Exalt Their Own Name
The greatest fear that many of us have is that we will walk off the stage of this world, unnoticed. We won’t be remembered. We will have lived and died a “nobody.” But if you are ambitiously burning the candle at both ends to leave some kind of legacy, could it be that you are only leaving a “legacy of ambition?”
I love the words of Mrs. Charles Cowman in her classic devotional work: Streams in the Desert : “I was never of any use until I found out that God did not intend to make me to be… great.”
4. Their results were “under-whelming.”
5 The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.
They wanted to reach God but had underestimated his greatness. He had to stoop down to look at their construction. You can be working hard and still discover, too late in life, that you have not accomplished God’s goals for you. It seems what you were building was not an altar to God, but a tower to self – just as insidious as the one in Babel.
You know the end of the story. God came down and confused their language and separated them. I’m sure they were confused… they had thought they were getting ahead in the world… and now they were thoroughly lost in the world.
Today you will lay down bricks to the monument which is your life. Is your workmanship shoddy or sure? Is it a monument to hurry or heaven? Stop, take a step back and look at what it is you are building.