Choosing prayerfulness over hurry and stress

At Sanctuary and in my personal life, the battle of prayerfulness over hurry is in full swing. You can't be prayerful and be in a rush at the same time. The two states of mind are mutually exclusive. So what happens when all your hurry-instincts are put to the test? It happened for me a couple days ago.

I was taking Nathaniel for his first day of basketball camp, and we were there for first-day registration and check-in. We were right on time -- 5 minutes early. When we walked into the gym, a few parents were sitting with their kids on the bleachers waiting for things to get started. There was a registration table at the end of the bleachers where several camp staff members were talking. Like the other parents and kids, Nathaniel and I found a seat on the bleachers.

Folks continued to stream in, and the bleachers were filling up. It was nearing 8:40, check-in time. I felt content to sit with Nathaniel and be patient. My inner world was in a good state. And that's when the stress began.

Two moms walked up to the registration table and started forming their own line for registration. They looked around smugly -- like they had just outsmarted everyone else in the room. Two more moms joined them. And then another. Quickly the crowd realized what was happening, and the new social norm became "get in line" instead of "wait on the bleachers."

At this point, I realized I was facing a decision. Normally I would have gotten a spot in line no more than ten spots deep, seeing as how I loath waiting. But this morning, I said no
No to "I have to outsmart everyone else."
No to "I have to win the get-in-line-first competition."
No to "I have to hurry."
No to "I am too stressed out to wait."
I said no, and I was not going to give in. However, as the line grew, I became more conflicted about my choice. Now there were at least 50 parents in line. I chatted a little with Nathaniel. He asked me why I wasn't in line. I said, "I am not going to do that. I refuse to get in that line just because everyone else is." He didn't understand, and I was pretty sure I couldn't adequately explain things. 

Within me, the battle was raging. I silently sought God, wanting to be with him in an unhurried, unstressed inner place rather than participate in the ritual of rush I saw taking place around me. It was not easy. I looked up, and registration still hadn't started, and now the line was out the door of the gym, stretched all the way to the outer gate near the parking lot. I wondered if I had made a mistake. Now all the parents who were showing up late were getting in line, and I wasn't. With perfect childish logic, I felt I deserved to cut in front of them. 

However, at that point, the line was so long that the die had been cast. I was going to wait this thing out. I returned to prayer. Nathaniel ran out on the court and started shooting baskets with the other kids, leaving me to sort out this very telling inner struggle. As the minutes went by, things got a little easier. Was I overcoming a broken part of myself or was I happier because they opened registration and the line began to shorten? Maybe it was a little of both. 

I was praying, and part of what I did was acknowledge to God how ugly my inner hurry-reflexes are. I got a good look at how hurry pushed me toward being ugly, vindictive, and god-ignoring.

Registration dragged on for another 20 minutes, and finally I walked to the table to register -- dead last. And you know what? It didn't matter in the least. The camp hadn't started yet. Nathaniel was happily shooting baskets, so he didn't care. The only one who cared was the childish voice within me. 

This 20-minute struggle was surprisingly challenging, but prayerfulness won out in the end. Prayer doesn't just happen when we are at peace. It also happens when someone gets in line in front of us, or when all those people who showed up after us get to register before us, or when we find ourselves dead last. Basketball registration was an interesting lab for me, but we all have situations that test us. What will win out -- hurry or prayer?


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