Sleep faster. I will never forget that line and the laughter it brought the first time it was uttered. It was during a class I was taking one summer in Hebrew. A group of about 20 students, including me, had been learning Hebrew for the whole summer as part of our degree program and after several months of being in the classroom for 15 hours a week and then spending about that much time again on our own, we not only grew to know each other well, but we began to feel that, perhaps, we were learning the language. Then came the final exam.
Several students began to panic as the professor outlined what would be on the exam. One student in particular became quite agitated to the point of verging on despair itself. The professor kindly tried to reassure him that all his work over the summer was in fact his preparation for the exam and that didn’t need to fret. At this, another student expressed their concern, “But I still don’t have enough time to prepare! How can I squeeze more time out of the day?” To this the first student turned around and quipped, “Sleep faster!” We all erupted in laughter and I suspect we have all had reason to remember that line in the years since.
That statement came back to me again this week as I was listening to a number of addresses at a conference. Several speakers made reference to the fact that we are living in an age that is getting faster and faster. One speaker even told us matter-of-factly that we just needed to accept that we live in a world of sound bites, tidbits, and social media that will only continue to escalate the pace of life. And then…
A mild-mannered businessman who gave no indication of being a Christian (the other speakers had identified themselves as Christian in one way or another) spoke on the nature of being a restauranteur in New York city. In the midst of an incredibly insightful talk he made the comment that innovation in his business used to last about 2-3 years. After that amount of time other restaurants would be copying the innovation, rendering the idea no longer new. Now, he said, innovation lasts about 2 minutes because of the internet. BUT then, instead of talking more about the speed of change, he argued that in such a world what makes the difference is thoughtfulness.
Thoughtfulness. Not letting speed rule your life. Thoughtfulness. Not allowing soundbites to masquerade as substantive. Thoughtfulness. Pausing to consider intention, purpose, meaning, people. As I sat there, I marveled that a man who apparently does not know Jesus understands what those who do know Jesus failed to see. Jesus was pressed on every side by needs and demands every day, but he refused to be carried along by it. Instead, he made time for prayer, for thoughtfulness, even if it meant sleeping faster.