At the beginning of a race, emotions and adrenaline levels run high. There is both excitement and anxiety. The heart is pumping like crazy and the nerves are on edge.
At the starting line, I usually position myself behind the group of the race leaders- those who are in it to win. While I am not, by any means, in it to win, I usually have a time goal I am shooting for and so I want to position myself strategically. To be in between the race leaders and the leisure runners enables me to be pulled forward by the former group and not be slowed down by the latter.
In one of the races I did last year, however, I found myself in the lead pack at the starting line. Before I could move back a couple of rows, the race director started the count down... "3, 2, 1, Go!" I had no choice but to run with the lead pack for a while. And for a while, I was able to keep up. I let myself be swept-up in the energy and excitement of that first wave of runners.
It was definitely a much faster pace than my normal. But at that moment, it felt good. I was running with some big names for a couple of miles around the main streets of Anchorage with crowds cheering us on!
As we headed out to the trails, though, I had to take a quick reality-check. I knew we were going fast but I didn't know how fast until I checked my GPS watch. I realized I was going way to fast than I had trained for! I was keeping up but how long could I manage that pace? I had to remind myself it was a long distance run. That I had to pace myself if I want to finish under my time goal or at least with a decent time.
"Slow down!", I started to tell myself.
I dialed it down to a more realistic pace for the remainder of the race. And I finished within my time goal!
Don't you feel like life, work and ministry are going at such breakneck speeds sometimes, if not most of the time? I do. And it so easy to get caught up in this wave of deadlines, to-do lists, calendars and desired outputs that we find ourselves "running at a pace we are not comfortable with." While one might argue that these are important and essential matters that we need to attend to (and I am not questioning that), the rate at which we approach these tasks has become, at times, unrealistic and detrimental to our health and well-being. Consequently, it becomes detrimental to the health and well-being of our families, organizations and faith communities.
Perhaps we need to slow down. To dial it down a bit. Now I am not in any way advocating laziness and being slackers. I also believe in being stretched by a challenge in order to grow. But there is a fine line between being challenged and being overwhelmed. I'm saying, we need to check and make sure we haven't crossed that line. I'm saying, perhaps we need to right-size our schedules and workloads to healthier levels where there is a balance between work, ministry and the other, more important aspects of our lives like family, God and self.
I am now reading a book by Walter Brueggemann entitled, "Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now" where he argues that the institution of the Sabbath was a way of resisting and breaking the work-driven culture that defined the Israelites as a people for many, many years. I highly recommend it.
I invite you to look at the pace of your life right now. Are you going too fast? Perhaps it is time to listen to that inner voice that is saying, "slow down!" Perhaps it is time to dial it down to a more realistic pace. After all, life is not a sprint but a marathon. We need to have enough in the tank to finish strong. And we need to enjoy the run as well!
Your fellow disciple,