5 min read

The Spilled Milk Arc and the Ruthless Elimination of Hurry

“Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” - Dallas Willard
The Spilled Milk Arc and the Ruthless Elimination of Hurry
Luca (2 yo) and Ezra (4 yo) and Southbay Dentistry
“Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” - Dallas Willard

The kids wanted breakfast. Ezra and Luca, my 2nd and 3rd youngest, requested cereal.

"Cereal? No problem." I said happily. Normally I'd cook what our fam calls eggy-rice (fried egg w/ rice) so the request for cereal sounded like the gift of time. Especially when it feels like we're rushing in the morning.

The kids start eating and I quickly realize that Luca is making a mess. He keeps spilling his milk. Small spills. Not a problem.

"Luca, put your head over your bowl and eat it so you don't make a mess!", I say it patiently. If there was a "be-a-good-dad-by-being-patient" counter I'd successfully hit my quota of one of one for the day.

Despite my instructions, the mess only gets bigger. Look at him disrespecting my clear instructions to eat without spilling. How dare he. It feels like he's doing it on purpose. Of course he is! He's 2 years old for God's sake.

The thought of the amount of time we were going to waste — the time that I was going to waste — entered my mind.  I couldn't stop thinking about the inconvenience and frustration the spilled milk was going to cause. Am I going to have to wipe him down? Crap, he just put his forearm all over the milk on the counter — he'll be sticky and I'll definitely have to wipe him down. What about his clothes? I'll probably have to change his clothes. His t-shirt for sure. What about his shorts? Did it seep into his diaper? Now I need to change his shirt, shorts, and diaper!? Is that milk AND cereal on the floor!? No way. How? You've got to be kidding me, now the dog is eating the cereal!

"Ash, stop eating that!", I said firmly to our border collie.

My frustration is boiling. The impatience — it turns to anger. My body is physically reacting. My head is getting tight and I am getting hot. I am ready to explode — over spilled milk. I can't even remember how I got here — not true — of course I remember how we're here.

We're here cause of spilled milk and the fact that I'm getting this angry over it is making me even more angry!

I take a breath.  I think of Jesus. I don't want to. I want to stew in my anger and use it as fuel and deposit swift justice to my child for wasting our time — my time — and for making a mess. Which is so secondary at this point but I need to tell myself this in order to feel better.

Here we go. T-minus 3 seconds till the anger manifests itself in our physical reality. To the outside observer you wouldn't be able to tell how angry I'm getting. The kids definitely can't tell. Yes, I have anger issues.

I look at Ezra. He's smiling. Joyfully. Why? He speaks to Luca in the most patient, nurturing, and loving tone...

My mind clears for a split second and I watch:

"Not like that Luca. Put your head over the bowl and you won't spill your milk! 😁"

"Like this?", Luca moves his head closer to the bowl.

"Yeah! Just like that. 😁", Ezra encourages Luca.

Luca takes his next bite with perfect form, courtesy of coach Ezra.

With joy, encouragement, love, and the most authentic smile on his face, Ezra teaches Luca how to eat cereal.

My mind is blown. What in the world just happened? How much time passed by? I realized from the moment the milk had spilled and seeing the entire emotional arc unfold was only about 20 seconds.

I'm in tears. I'm literally weeping. My 4 year old is a better parent than I am. I recognize I'm going through emotions of guilt, shame, frustration and ineptitude of my ability to be a Dad that can bring encouragement to our family.

Something clicks inside. I take in a deep big breath and my mind clears...

I think about Jesus and this time I'm happy to do so. I'm eager to process what had just happened in my mind. I realize that the Spilled Milk arc is me living out the very essence of hurry being the great enemy of spiritual life and how the ruthless elimination of hurry is the cure. This shakes me to the core of my soul. I know that whatever I just went through are pages in my book of life that I will never forget.

It's so easy to imagine an alternate reality where I allow hurry to further infect my soul.

I would have undoubtedly yelled at Luca. To put another way, I would have angrily yelled at a 2 year old toddler for spilling milk (it sounds so absurd and ridiculous when phrased like this -- because it is). If I allowed that to happen, I would have robbed Ezra and Luca of that incredible moment.  I wouldn't have just robbed my children, I would have robbed God from doing His work within our family.

And it was an incredible moment — I cannot understate that. If you're a parent, you know just how lucky you are when you get to witness interactions like this.

I'm so proud of Ezra. So grateful. So grateful to God for allowing me to see what I saw. For the journey I've been on over the half year of better understanding the workings of my soul. It's hard to imagine arriving here without the experiences I've had in 2021 – the good and the bad.

There's a book titled, "The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry" by John Mark Comer. I read it and loved it. It spoke to me last year at the start of the pandemic during a community initiative I had the honor of being a part of — Echo Compassion.

I'm embarrassed to say but this is how I remember the book: Hurry, bad. Yes, yes. Rest. Be mindful. Don't hurry. Blah blah. Got it, bro! Send my hurry eliminator certificate in the mail. 👍

It's been over a year since I've read it and it feels like common phraseology for those in church circles. For me, it's striking a different chord as I read through Soul Keeping by John Ortberg.

Just maybe, I'm finally starting to understand the phrase, "You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry." The importance of it. Its application to my life. The practicality. The magnitude of it all.

The statement is so important that John Ortberg mentions it right out of the gates in his introduction to Soul Keeping.

“Okay, Dallas,” I [John Ortberg] responded. “I’ve got that one. Now what other spiritual nuggets do you have for me? I don’t have a lot of time, and I want to get all the spiritual wisdom from you that I can.” “There is nothing else,” he [Dallas Willard] said, generously acting as if he did not notice my impatience. “Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

"There is nothing else", Dallas says.

Trips me out thinking about how my entire life changed over spilled milk.

I'm determined to purge hurry from my life.

If this post has encouraged you please pass it along to someone else that may need it.

Recommended reading:

Soul Keeping by John Ortberg

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer

Fun fact: If it wasn't made clear, Dallas Willard is the man who is credited with origins to the statement, "ruthless elimination of hurry". It was something Dallas taught to John Ortberg. Which John Ortberg then taught to John Mark Comer.

I first learned about the statement in John Mark Comer's, "The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry" book (I know, it's confusing). Started to better contextualize its potency in John Ortberg's "Soul Keeping". And finally understood what it meant after having to live through it during the Spilled Milk arc. As you can see, I am not the sharpest tool in the shed but I'll get there eventually. 😅