Wesleyan Accent


Hurry Slowly by Maxie Dunnam

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Years ago I came across a phrase that grabbed my attention. It was a season of my life when I was paying close attention to my own “spiritual state,” and as a result, seeking to develop particular spiritual disciplines. The phrase, a long obedience in the same direction, comes from Friedrich Nietzsche. This was his statement: The essential thing in heaven and earth is… that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; thereby, results, and is always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.” (Beyond Good and Evil, translated, Helen Zimmern, London, 1908, Section 188, pp. 106-109).

Just recently I came across a Latin expression, festina lente, which renews the initial impact of Nietzsche’s long obedience word. The expression means “hurry slowly.” I stumbled upon the expression this past Lenten season when reflecting on the last week of Jesus’ life. The Cross is looming ominously on the horizon. Jesus prays that He might be spared this terrible ordeal. In fact, the scripture says He prayed so intensely that He sweated drops of blood. But then, listen to what Jesus said, “Father, if it be thy will, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not my will but thine be done!”

When I became aware my newly discovered phrase, lente, sounds remarkably like Lent, I was forced to both broaden and deepen my Lenten reflection. For what am I living and how am I pursuing it? Am I practicing a long obedience in the same direction? Am I hurrying slowly, or am I a part of the popular rat race of assuming that anything worthwhile can be acquired at once? No one else is slowing down; why should I?

I’m 89, I don’t have the time I had when I was 70, and wondered, “how much time do I have?” I’m dealing with that question more intently now. I know my time is limited. I must hurry but I want to hurry slowly. I must not move in a way that the evidence of mature discipleship is not being seen in my life. I want to continue what has been a slow but long apprenticeship in holiness. When everyone else is in a hurry, I don’t want to be seduced by today’s passion for the newest human potential, faith-healing, Zen, parapsychology, successful-living program, trying anything until something else comes along. Everyone is in a hurry, and I want to hurry too, but not for the immediate and the casual. I want to discover and practice disciplines that deepen my long obedience in the same direction. At every intersection of my life I want to pray earnestly, “O faithful Lord, Not my will, but yours be done.”

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