The concept of pace has come up several times in my life recently. What is your typical pace? Mine is moderately fast. I blame it on my Miami years rushing from my dorm to a class and from one class to another. But that might not be fair… I probably also kept a pretty fast pace in high school. Some friends and I would walk home from school almost every day…about a two mile walk…carrying our books in rain, shine and snow. We loved the fresh air, exercise and good conversation.
Whenever it began, I have an ingrained habit that I have a difficult time breaking. You see, my habitual pace is not the preferred pace of some people who are very important to me. My daughters are good…they also have the Miami pace down. My grandchildren are young and sometimes move a little too fast! They get me chasing them through the house until I am out of breath!! My husband, on the other hand, has a preferred pace of about half my speed. My 92 year old father’s pace is no more than 25%. I find it very difficult to change my pace to match another’s. Do you notice this too?
I am not just talking about your speed of walking. I am talking about your speed of life which involves movement, speed of speech, speed of thought, and level of activity both at home and outside the home. Do you try to get as many things done as you can, or do you complete critical tasks at a leisurely pace? When you are out will you stop for conversations or give a cursory greeting while you remain on the move? Do you get annoyed when people are slower to think about things or to put a thought into words? Do you build time into your day for quiet time with God or do you believe you are just too busy for that? Do you make time for friends and family or are you disconnected in a flurry of activity?
I recently had an opportunity to preach a sermon series on “The Simple Faith of Mr. Rogers” by Amy Hollingsworth. I was too old to be a viewer when Mr. Rogers’ show first aired, and I didn’t sit my kids down to watch it in the 80’s. To be honest, he was too slow for me! His pace was so slow that it felt sluggish and lethargic. I learned through this book that he was very purposeful about his pace. He intentionally wanted a very peaceful and calming experience for his young viewers. He knew that many of the children who watched his show faithfully had chaotic living situations and he wanted to give them a very predictable experience every single day. Now that I better understand why he maintained the pace he did, I feel a bit sheepish for my negative judgements about Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.
Fred Rogers lived his own life very similarly to how he “lived” on his show. He was a very quiet man, took life at a slower than average pace and was extremely predictable in his daily schedule. He was a man of faith and studied for the seminary on his lunch breaks from the show. Ultimately, he became an ordained Presbyterian minister.
So pace has been on my mind a lot lately. Just because my rapid pace is a habit, is it what is best? Is it what God wants for me? I have been a bit prideful about my pace in the past. Fast seemed best! I seemed to be able to get a lot done in most days, and I didn’t feel like I wasted a lot of time on “unproductive” matters. Don’t get me wrong…I have made a lot of strides over the years to slow my life down. I am much better at not taking on too much. I have also improved in my ability to manage my time so that the most important things get done without undue stress or worry and less important things can get left undone if necessary. A great day used to be measured by how many tasks I completed. Now a great day is also measured by the quality of time I was able to spend with someone I enjoy. I can now cherish an afternoon of reading or studying on my front porch, and I have come to love an occasional week at the beach (but just a week!!).
The final motivation to write about pace came Sunday in Pastor Kevin’s sermon. He preached from Genesis 33:12-14. The relationship between twin brothers, Jacob and Esau, had just been restored after twenty years of estrangement. They are going to travel together back to their homeland, but Jacob cannot keep the pace of Esau. Jacob has young children and livestock with nursing young. To keep the pace of Esau would kill the young. So Jacob slows his pace – even in his excitement to return home.
Pastor Kevin and Christine have a seven week old baby girl – their first. He shared how Sierra has slowed their pace as a couple. Her needs for slow and easy, quiet and gentle have superseded her parents’ habit of running (literally and figuratively). As Sierra grows, she will be able to adapt to a faster pace, even one that outdoes their own, but for now it is slow and easy, quiet and gentle.
I was curious what scripture says about our pace. Here are a few examples that can inform your speed of life…
Exodus 34:21 “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.”
Psalm 23:1 “A Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” (sheep are not known for winning any races!)
Psalm 37:7 “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…”
Ecclesiastes 9:11 “Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong…”
Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
In fairness, I found an equal number of scriptures talking about labor, being diligent in our work and faithful with our time. So which scriptures are most important…the scriptures leading us to work or to rest? By virtue of the meaning of “rest” I think you would agree that implies we have first worked. Balance between the two is the key. Since we have a God of balance, we would be wise to seek to live our own lives in balance.
One of the biggest excuses we give for spending time with God, visiting with a friend or relative or doing good self-care is “I don’t have the time”. Time is the great equalizer. No matter who we are, we each get 24 hours in every single day. The difference between us is what is we choose to do with our time. What are your priorities? Have you made the most important things the most important things in your schedules? Have you let something good take over what is best??
I challenge you to consider your pace, your habitual speed of living out your life. Are you running out in front of those you love? Is your pace stressful to yourself and others? Are you trying to keep a pace that is not realistic for your personality and your tolerance? Are you so busy that your relationship with God is weak or nonexistent? As we head into the holidays, which for most of us is the busiest time of the year, can you find ways to slow down, drink in the splendor of the season and be totally present with your family and friends when you are able to get together?
I think one of the most precious times of Christmas is Christmas Eve worship. It is an hour of peace in a season of whirlwind. An hour of worship in a season of materialism. It is perhaps the most special hour of the year to me, as I still my pace to that of the infant Christ child. Can you allow the Holy Spirit in you to be your pace-setter?
I am going to continue to seek balance in my life. While my preferred speed will probably always be faster than some people that I love, I will work hard to slow down for them. I want them to know that I love them more than my need to get somewhere faster or complete a task quicker. I especially want God to know that I value my time with Him more than any to-do list or arbitrary deadline.
I pray that you and I might be able to fully live out Psalm 46:10 “He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth’.”