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OPINION: A meaningful inefficiency

by Todd E. Brady


We have a corporate prayer time each Sunday at church when we pray for a particular ministry or another congregation.  When new people join our church or when church members are moving out of town, we also pray for them.  Not only do we pray for them; we also pray over them.  We get out of our seats, go toward them down front and are all connected as we lay hands on each other’s shoulders.  When hundreds of people bunch up together in the aisles, it’s not the smoothest of movements.

This Sunday, our pastor led us in praying for new and departing members.  He said we were all going to get up and pray over them and that this wasn’t the most efficient thing we could do.  Then he said something profound—“Efficiency is not what matters most as we gather on Sunday morning.”

Society is too focused on efficiency.  Sure, we desire efficiency when checking out items at the grocery, when conducting an on-line bank transactions or when mailing a package,  but I’m afraid we sometimes take our desire for efficiency too far. 

A text may be more efficient than a phone call, but what is gained?  More importantly, what is lost?  Sending an email might get the job done, but I’ve never printed off an email and saved it because it meant so much to me.  I have, though, kept some handwritten notes that I received some 30 years ago.

Some say that technology makes us more connected.  From my experience, I would beg to differ.  As cell phone usage has gone up, it seems to me that eye contact and personal conversation has gone down.

Depression and anxiety are rampant.  Depression affects over 18 million adults a year and is the primary reason that someone commits suicide.  15 million adults (7.1% of the U.S. population) have social anxiety. Could it be that a dose of inefficiency might help?  Maybe the answer is not in us moving more efficiently, but in us moving more intentionally.  Being intentional, particularly with one another, often takes time.  Relationships take time.

Those who have been most important and influential in my life were not those who were the most efficient with me.  Instead, they were those who were intentional with me. 

Yes, there are many processes that call for efficiency, but when we seek to be efficient with people, we end up treating them like a commodity—persons to be “dealt with” rather than those to be experienced. 

In The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis said “There are no ordinary people.  You have never talked to a mere mortal.  Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.  But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit—immortal horrors are ever lasting splendors.  This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn.  We must play.  But our merriment must of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”

At church it takes a bit of time to pray over others.  There is what some might say is awkward silence as we wait for everyone to walk into the aisles and up front.

It may be one of the most inefficient things we do, but that inefficiency is one of the most meaningful things we do.

Todd E. Brady serves as Staff Chaplain and Advanced Funeral Planner at Arrington Funeral Directors.  He and his wife, Amy have five sons.  You may write to him at tbrady@afgemail.net.

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