“It all just happened so fast”

If you’ve ever listened to a news interview of someone involved in or observer of an accident or disaster you’ve heard the line: it all just happened so fast.

If the person interviewed for media or by a law enforcement officer was actually involved in the incident, they may be expressing a sort of shock-response. The pieces were all right there in front of them the whole time. But they came together in a lightning-fast fashion that was disorienting, even in hindsight.

If the person was a witness of the incident, it’s not so much shock that they express. Instead it is more a surreal acknowledgement of how life happens – ordinary days for months on end then an unexpected adrenaline rush. You try to slow it down in order to capture the missing details that might be extremely important, but it’s hard to do. The next thing comes at you so fast.

It all just happened so fast.

I began 2011 with a much-needed and greatly appreciated time of Sabbatical leave. The month of January afforded me a heretofore unknown opportunity to still every single element of my life, holding it before our Father as an offering of sorts… getting His take on how things were going and His directives for things to come. It was nothing short of life-giving.

I moved from the time away to a long-scheduled retreat season. The retreats I facilitate for pastors, staff, and Church leaders are among the favorite things I get to do in life. Small groups of folks pull aside for 20+ hours. I get to coordinate the schedule, host the event, offer some devotionals, read Scripture reflectively and in community, engage in prayer, some spiritual direction… it is just wonderful.

Yet, while it is wonderful, it is real work. If you are a retreatant rather than one who facilitates retreats, you might never have seen the underbelly enough to know how taxing it really is (at least to a bon-a-fide introvert).

  • The preparation is meticulous and intense, always afraid that I insert too much Randy and too little Jesus.
  • The event is mentally, physically, and spiritually exhausting – it is a good kind of tired, but a very real tired nonetheless.
  • The follow-through on lessons learned to turn around to the next retreat makes preparation a never-ending cycle, even when the retreat topics are the same.
  • The details (everything from name tags, to schedules, to pens, to journals, to meal arrangements, etc.) wear on me.
  • And the spiritual warfare associated with offering such experiences leaves me vulnerable to the enemy, withdrawn from my faith community (the weary thing again), and sleep deprived.

To quote Dickens, the retreat seasons are ‘the best of times’ and ‘the worst of times.’

Essentially this means that from January 7 – April 1, 2011 I put off a lot of stuff!

So, April 1 I hunkered down and started responding to every non-urgent email that had been postponed, catching up on every administrative report, returning some way-too-long neglected calls, sorting through piles of coaching notes grown cold from neglect, adding new sermon outlines to the mix for summer and fall, scheduling appointments, and so on and so on and so on and…

You get the idea.

Yesterday I looked up from my desk and saw my oldest son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter had come to join us in celebrating Mother’s Day. A long-ago planned trip to Philly had crept up on me like a mugger in a dark alley. I had all but forgotten my promise to disconnect for a day.

I packed up a few things for the one-night trip and deliberately left my cell phone at home (it’s a smarter-than-me phone which keeps me totally connected with my work world).

“It all just happened so fast.”

Specifically, it only took 35 days… barely 5 weeks.

Between April 1 and May 5 I became imprisoned.

I know some of you are thinking I’m overreacting, but there’s a reason they call those things cells! Think about it!

I wasn’t 10 minutes from my cell when I felt as unsure as a landlubber on a ship in a storm. My bearings were off. My balance was compromised. I had questions I couldn’t get answers to. I had traffic challenges I couldn’t navigate. I wondered ceaselessly and aimlessly about who might be emailing or calling or texting.

An hour later I was, literally, shaking on the inside. It was very much like an addict going through withdrawal.

It scared me.

I’m the guy who insists that participants in my retreats slow and quiet their lives in order to participate. I create the space for that to happen, declaring our retreats to be “no laptop and no cell phone zones.” I value this with my whole soul.

“But, it all just happened so fast.”

In 5 short weeks I binged on that tiny little piece of technology that sits next to me in the car or rides in my pocket like a sidearm in the old west.

It cost me perspective.

It cost me peace.

It cost me time.

I gave in to thinking about the benefits and forgot my responsibility to remember the consequences.

Did you hear about the guy who fell into a furniture upholstery machine? He’s fully recovered now.

I am not. I’m better. I’m aware. I see what happened. I’m determined. But not fully recovered. Pray for me. And, I will for you. Maybe we should all schedule more regular technology fasts as acts of worship to a Father who waits so patiently for us to give Him full attention. Amen.


About christmasandicecream

Grace & Peace to you all! I'm Randy. I am a follower of Jesus - sometimes close up and, sadly, sometimes way too far away. My best friend, administrative assistant, partner, and high school sweetheart all live with me and go by the same name: Adele. She and I are part of a relationally-focused, small group based Church family that helps us along spiritual quest. Our boys are both grown now. We have a wonderful daughter-by-marriage and 2 truly GRANDchildren... 1 boy and 1 girl. We are Corgi people and now oversee the care of 1 spoiled Corgi puppy named Elly May. I am a devoted fan of 2 'seasons' in each year: Christmas and baseball!! At my house, a Christmas tree goes up somewhere within days of the close of the Fall Classic (baseball lingo for the World Series) and a Christmas tree stays up all the way through Spring Training. In between it is non-stop celebration of the Incarnation. I live in the Mid-Atlantic part of the U.S.A. and, among other things, work as a coach and consultant with an incredibly diverse network of churches that make up the BCMD. My Church-roots are in the Baptist bucket of the Christian ice cream shop. But, just because I have a favorite flavor, doesn't mean I don’t like them all! I do. I work with things like soul care & leadership development of pastor/pastoral team members; with small, simple, organic models of church life; with relational strategies of spiritual formation; and with the health of the Church. I taught at New Orleans seminary for a decade and have served in local churches for 30 years. I am currently part of the faculty of Rockbridge Seminary – a new kind of seminary for a new kind of Church – where I also play a role on the Academic Council. *I am obliged to note that questions, comments, ideas, views,... just about anything you read here, are mine, and not those of BCMD, RS, any other organization or school I work for, or those of most normal people. Thanks for visiting. Come back again.
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