Reducing hurry helps us affirm one another’s dignity, especially those we’re most prone to ignore or avoid

Written by Caleb Unrau

I work part-time guarding at the police station holding cells in my town of Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. After my shift is finished, I often rush to my car, thinking about all the emails I have to send for my other job, pastoring at a small country church.

One day, while hurrying to my car, I spot a man talking to a police officer outside the station. His clothes are dirty, his body looks worn out as if he has had a long journey, and his facial expression tells the story of someone who cannot catch a break. 

He needs to get somewhere, he is telling one of the officers, and does not have any means of transportation or a place to stay for the night. I want to tell myself to keep walking—that my time is precious and that stopping for this man would be a waste of it. Every second I pause is a second longer before I can get home and catch up on all my emails.

But as I hurry past, I look at him, and our eyes meet. An ancient story comes to mind. A story about a God who created humans in his own image. A story about a God who loves every person. A God who sees everyone. A God who put on human flesh and came to walk among us in the person of Jesus—“God with us.”

If the God I pledge allegiance to sees this person, maybe He wants me to pause and see them too. God loves this man and created him in his image, I remind myself as I move toward him.

Our culture of hurry trains us to see others only in terms of what they can offer us. In our pursuit of productivity, the needs or interruptions of others offer little benefit, except perhaps relieving our guilty consciences. Hurry means that we rarely pause to behold another person for who they are. Instead, ignoring them seems like the most efficient option.

But I do not think Jesus moved as fast as we do. He certainly did not find hurry to be a virtue—a badge of importance and productivity. Paul deemed love the ultimate virtue of a Jesus follower. Love is patient, he writes in 1 Corinthians 13, describing the kind of love we’re supposed to practise. In other words, love is not in a hurry.

After talking to the man outside the police station and discovering his situation, I find there are a few things I can help with, so I do. I also find there are things he can teach me. “Life moves so fast some places,” he says. “The people in those big cities never see me.”

I can imagine how easy it would have been for Jesus to just keep moving and ignore people calling to him in the crowd. Yet Jesus regularly let others interrupt him, demonstrating an ability to see people and make time for them. Even in the crowds, where people’s faces tend to blur together, Jesus saw individuals—each wanting to be known and loved.

Even in the crowds, where people’s faces tend to blur together, Jesus saw individuals—each wanting to be known and loved.

Jesus met a Samaritan woman at a well who’d had five previous husbands. By all the standards of that time and place, she was unworthy of speaking with a Jewish man. Her scandalous story would have certainly been deemed unworthy of being told. Yet Jesus invited her into conversation and now has her story told anytime anyone reads John’s Gospel.

The story is one of many that demonstrates how Jesus saw those nobody else saw, loved those nobody else loved, and welcomed the stories of people nobody else thought were worth telling.  Apparently, a big part of doing his father’s work was entering the lives of ordinary people with the power to bring about transformation and redemption.

As his ambassadors, should we not also set aside our hurry and our plans and do the same?

For me the journey of learning from my teacher Jesus how to slow down has just begun. It has taken some reordering of activities, so I am not always rushing from one place to the next, and some structured quiet time to drown out all the voices and things that distract me from seeing the people around me as God’s creations and image bearers.

This may be a hard path to travel in the current exhausting culture of hurry and productivity, but as apprentices of the Jesus who sees, knows, and loves all, the path is necessary. And I think we will find that it is also filled with joy.

Pausing to recognize other image bearers is a task worth the time it takes. Jesus invites us to pause our hurried lives and see each other—especially those who are most vulnerable and ignored—not as problems to solve, avoid, or exploit, but as people who share the same identity we do. In truly seeing each other, we can learn to whisper under our breaths, Here is a person created in the image of God.

Caleb Unrau and his wife Kristen are associate pastors at a Manitoba church where they work mainly with students and families. Caleb is passionate about making discipleship a priority within the Church. He is a guest columnist for Digging Deeper.