The Lesson of the Tortoise in a Culture of Hares


How often do you find yourself in a hurry?

It’s an innate trait in my toolbox, and I use it even when we’re not late. I have a plan for when I want to arrive and depart. If we get to the zoo by 9 for early entry, we’ll have enough time to see our favorite animals and make it home for lunch.

If things happen on time – my time – then we’ll be able to fit “it all” in. I’ll even schedule time for rest! Just follow my efficient plan.

This applies to physical healing, as well. Someone has a cold? That should be mild and only last a couple days. It won’t get in the way of our travel plans, right?

The aches and pains of an aging body (way younger than I expected)? Just dig the foam roller into that throbbing lumbar and work it out.

Potty training? My friend’s kid did that in three days, so that should work for mine.


Before I had kids – and aged a decade – I remember doing “A” plus “B” actions to get “C” results. Then my body no longer bounced back like a rubber band, and my darling children threw a thousand wrenches into my practiced tactics.

The shift is hard. It’s letting go of what seemed to work for my young and single years. It’s letting go of control.

But lately, I’ve spent time reflecting on what I’ve gained more than what I’ve lost. There is something to the lesson of the tortoise in a culture of hares.

In Aesop’s timeless fable, the hare is confident that his superior speed will win the race, so he is careless and distracted along the way. The tortoise is slow and steady, careful, and his deliberate approach gets him to the finish line.

In a more modern and personal take, John Mark Comer says this in his book The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry:

“Hurry and love are incompatible. All my worst moments as a father, a husband, and a pastor, even as a human being, are when I’m in a hurry—late for an appointment, behind on my unrealistic to-do list, trying to cram too much into my day.”

Hurry and love are incompatible. Hurry and healing are incompatible. Hurry and patience are incompatible. Hurry and learning are incompatible.

So, I’m trying to be open to new paths and a slower pace. It’s not easy and I still have moments of resistance, but I’ve seen it cultivate a little more peace in our home and in my soul.

Instead of shouting from the next room about getting dressed so we can getoutthedoor, I try to look my son in the eye to ask him to get ready. Maybe I time him because making it a game often motivates around here. Or I take a moment to wrap him in a hug, grounding us both.

Instead of rolling my aching back into submission, I’m gently practicing ever-so-slow nerve glides to get my body functioning again.

Instead of powering through a not-so-mild cold, I am staying home to rest and drink the honeyed hot tea.

Instead of adding homework to the get-it-done to-do list, I’m giving my son grace to learn slowly and let the concepts click.

And my kids were potty-trained in months, not days.

I used to get so much done in my state of hurry. But that pace was lacking the fruit of the Spirit, particularly love, peace, patience, kindness and gentleness.

It may be countercultural, and it is certainly counter to my innate way of getting things done. But practicing my best tortoise pace instead of keeping up with the hare will still get me to the end of the race, and maybe with a little more peace.


  1. Jennifer- this is so eloquently put and very convicting( geesh- thanks!). Love how you address a topic all mommas need to address!


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