In Praise of Not Dawdling

On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. 10 But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” 11 And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. 12 And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted.

13 But going ahead to the ship, we set sail for Assos, intending to take Paul aboard there, for so he had arranged, intending himself to go by land. 14 And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and went to Mitylene. 15 And sailing from there we came the following day opposite Chios; the next day we touched at Samos; and the day after that we went to Miletus. 16 For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he might not have to spend time in Asia, for he was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost. – Acts 20:7-16

Roses were growing all along one path of the Königstein fortress

A yellow rose along a path at the Königstein fortress | August 2017

I am not wired for lingering conversations when it’s time to go. That’s not true of other people. In fact I recently had a conversation with a woman who admitted (with no sense of deficiency or guilt) that she was a dawdler. She grew up in a country and culture where people lingered and talked. There was always tomorrow in her world. Not me. I’m ready to take the hill. I want to see things happen. In this account Paul seems to show the latter kind of mentality as he continues to make his way to Jerusalem.

Before he leaves, however, he will preach… a long, long sermon if you will. And Eutychus falls asleep and falls out the window to his apparent death. He is the preacher’s favorite object lesson about not falling asleep in church: You never know if you’ll fall out the window and nearly die if you fall asleep in church! Eutychus’ lesson is much more far-reaching than that however. His experience and Paul’s intervention seem to be almost a passing non-event, rather than a miraculous intervention of Jesus’ power through Paul. In the end, after the fall and “resurrection”, they were comforted – no doubt. But little more is said. Paul is on his way. The reminder of this section is a travelogue indicating where Paul went and that he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, hopefully by Pentecost.

Perhaps this is a lesson in continuing to move forward, seeking to get some particular place by some particular time. That vibrates well with me; I tend to be a let’s get going and accomplish something kind of guy. I sometimes miss smelling the roses along the way. I can easily miss the deeper conversations that might enrich me as I pursue another goal. That’s not always good. But there are times when we must get a move on and move forward. It may not be so much having a ho-hum response to the miraculous, as it is a “let’s keep pursuing the goal” mentality that moves the church forward.

I thank God for those who enjoy the trip, and even slow me down once in a while to encourage me to see what God is doing along the path. But it is easier for me to keep moving forward as much as possible in the mission God has given me as a follower of Jesus. Perhaps that’s the key: Don’t go any faster or slower than Jesus is moving. That is the perfect pace.

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