By John Mark Comer
John Mark Comer
Many, many years ago when I was an “O” level student and my mum and I were really getting on each other’s nerves, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and retreat to my bedroom to (a) get ahead on reading a set book and (b) try not to run with an axe at my, in those days, not so Aged Parent.
The book was Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and I read it in one afternoon. It was a revelation. The essential idea around Brave New World is not that in the future we would all be controlled by threats or guns but by distractions – constant tiny distractions to stop us thinking too deeply or getting to the bottom of anything. And here we are – hurried, hassled, fearful of missing out and with the attention spans of a particularly distracted gnat. (Just me)?
The phrase “Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life” is usually attributed to Dallas Willard advising John Ortberg. This book is a sort of handbook of how to put some of that into practice. Comer was a pastor of a huge church with several campuses. (Why do they call them that? It’s annoying.) He was preaching too many times on a Sunday and more or less woke up one day and said Nope. He realised that his life was not sustainable as it was. He was too busy, too distracted and unhappy with the person that he was becoming.
The solution for him was to switch from being a follower of Jesus to an apprentice. The difference being that he would look to model himself and his lifestyle on the life of Jesus. This means he looks to build his life around principles of simplicity, community and spiritual disciplines. In practice, he embraces minimalism, doggedly puts in place a sabbath – which for him means no screens, making time for family and friends and er sex. (I didn’t ask – he told me anyway). By the way, Sabbath for him is a Saturday – he’s a preacher – he works on Sunday. He also explores the spiritual disciplines – prayer, Bible, fasting etc.
This is an immensely helpful book. It is very practical and challenging – especially on minimalism feeding into social justice i.e. our constant quest for more leading to fast fashion, sweatshops etc. He breaks down all the various components into simple but not always easily achievable actions. He encourages us to look at what it is that takes our time and ask what its value is. There are a few full-on challenges about getting rid of social media, switching your mobile to phone only and killing your tv. But there are also positive challenges around stillness, prayer and time for friendship building.
From a bit of a personal perspective, I found it a bit too groovy here and there. I’m not sure I am entirely the target audience. I’m not as up to speed as I might be on the wisdom of Biggie Smalls and whoever’s idea this font size was for the chapter on disciplines has some explaining to do.
I had to take a few deep breaths on once again being told about taking time to smell the Bible etc by a young man who cycles to work via snowflakes and daffodils and seems to find a lot of time to spend in coffee shops. But, the fact is he is right about most things and he addresses a problem that definitely needs addressing. So, even if you are a mum of three with a full-time job whose Saturdays are taken up dishwashing, ironing, meal planning with sixpence in the bank and preparing to do the whole thing again on Monday, there are still some excellent principles here.