This fall, I celebrated the 35th anniversary of my ordination in ministry. As part of the program, I received a huge surprise from Bob Nigh of the Baptist Messenger: my 500th article mounted on a beautiful plaque. I want to thank the Messenger staff for such a kind, thoughtful gesture. My family and staff say they have a hard time surprising me, and I admit I’ve been known to sneak over to the Christmas tree and shake a package or two. Still, I knew nothing about this ahead of time, so it amazed even . . . me.

After recovering from the shock, I preached about what I would do differently if I had the chance to relive the past 35 years. I want to share a shortened version with my favorite audience, my Baptist Messenger readers.

Psychologists have identified a new condition they call “Hurried Syndrome.” Let me describe this problem so you can recognize it in . . . someone you know.

Do you ever go shopping at Wal-Mart and walk across the entire width of the store after you finish, examining each checkout lane, mentally calculating the number of shoppers versus the contents of their baskets? You then choose the line you think will be fastest. But it happens anyway. As you near the checker, she inspects an item chosen by the shopper ahead of you. Soon, you hear those dreaded words, “Price check on aisle five” . . . your aisle! Tapping your foot impatiently, you look around to see if another line has shortened. You can’t back out, so you realize you are stuck.

As you pay for your purchase, the guy with the biggest cart in the longest line passes you, heading for his car. Shaking your head, you tell yourself, “No matter what line I choose, it ends up being the longest.”

If you’ve ever had this experience, you probably have Hurried Syndrome. Another indicator is traffic. When you come to a stop light, do you check the vehicles in front of you to see which will make it across the intersection fastest, then maneuver in line behind that one? If this sounds like your driving pattern, you have Hurried Syndrome.

This problem began in the mid-1950s with the advent of “fast food.” You notice they don’t call it “good food,” just . . . fast. Soon, fast food wasn’t fast enough. A drive-through lane made it faster, and now every family in America has dry, wrinkled French fries stuck in the crack of their back seat. Reportedly, the founder of Domino’s Pizza said, “We don’t sell pizza, we sell delivery.” Unless Domino’s gets your pizza to you in 30 minutes or less, it is . . . free.

The Hurried Syndrome has even infiltrated relationships. Have you heard of speed dating? Our constant rushing has so saturated our culture that we don’t even realize how hurried we have become. Not long ago, I was reading the familiar story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. Two men passed by a hurting brother without taking time to stop. Why? They were hurried. The third man was busy, but not hurried. When we’re hurried, we won’t allow God to interrupt our days. When we’re hurried, those closest to us suffer.

One of my staff shared the following quote with me from the famous missionary to China, James O. Fraser: “My mistake has too often been that of too much haste. But it is not the people’s way to hurry, nor is it God’s way either. Hurry means worry, and worry effectually drives the peace of God from the heart.”

The last verse of the Gospel of John says, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25) Jesus was busy, but not hurried. If He had been hurried, we would not have the stories of a woman at a well, a small man climbing down from a tree, a blind man seeing or a lame man walking.

If I could live my life over, I would ask God to help me learn the difference between busy and hurried. When we celebrated together this fall, I apologized to my wife and my children. In my hurry to build the Kingdom, I missed many opportunities to bless . . . those I love most.

In this New Year, why don’t we ask God to teach us the difference between being busy and hurried? The saddest part is that the hurried people . . . won’t have time.