I have a complicated relationship with this word. When I hear this word, I think of restraint. I don’t like to be restrained.
In both my personal life and my career, I am known for my efficiency. When something just has to get done, I am the one called to finish it off. In these situations, there is no pace. There is only drive. But over the last two years, the word pace continues to come to mind during quiet times and reflection. There is much to be learned by thinking about pace.
I believe that to get pace right, three things are required: discipline, vision, and trust.
In high school, I ran both track and cross country. In track, one of my events was the 200-meter dash. In this race, runners line up staggered across the track and sprint quickly at the start. There is no pace. Each runner presses into the curve and strives to overtake the opponents in the other lanes. In the closing 100 meters, the staggered runners are now even and it’s a hard sprint to the finish. No holding back. No pace. Just driving their legs as fast as they can go across the line.
Cross country was a different story. This is where pace found its place for me. If you started the race by sprinting, you would collapse well before the finish line. Practice and patience are required to find the perfect pace that allows you to cross the finish line in the shortest amount of time. Each runner must have discipline to maintain the right speed, vision of the end goal, and trust in the coach that helped train and motivate the runner leading up to the race.
Sometimes life throws events at you that require a sprint, but I have found most of life is more like a marathon. Living a healthy and abundant life requires pace.
What do discipline, vision, and trust look like in real life? What practice is required to develop the right discipline? What vision must we have to stay motivated? And in whom should we trust to coach and guide us throughout our lives?
In thinking through this concept, a common passage from the Bible stood out to me that is typically used for teaching other topics. This may not seem relevant at first, but stick with me. It’s a quote from Jesus about taking his yoke to ease our burdens in Matthew 11:28-30:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me… For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
This is an amazing reminder that Jesus is there to ease our burdens and lighten our load. But a new angle on this story became apparent to me.
A yoke is a crosspiece that fastens across the necks of two animals. This allows the animals to share the burden of pulling a heavy load. The symbolism described by Jesus is that when we yoke ourselves to him, he helps pull our burdens and shoulder our load.
But two other things are also true.
When yoked together, the animals must also continue traveling in not only the same direction but also at the same pace. One bull cannot pull faster or in a different direction than the other.
When you take the yoke of Jesus, he helps lighten your burdens. But in doing this you also agree to walk alongside him in the same direction and at the same pace.
In most of my life, I want to move quickly! I have many questions and concerns and I want my answers right now! I often try to rush or find shortcuts. I don’t like to wait.
But when doing this, my pace is wrong. I approach burnout and become weary. I want Jesus to help carry my load, but then I push and pull against him while trying to speed up or change directions. I pull against the yoke. I need pace.
To maintain the right pace when yoked to Jesus, I need discipline, vision, and trust.
I develop discipline by studying the life of Jesus and learning what it is like to walk alongside him. I read about him, talk to him in prayer, listen for him, and look for signals that I am pushing or pulling outside of his pace.
I maintain vision knowing that this life is meant to be lived fully and that God has a plan for me. My goal is to reach my finish line, the end of my life, knowing that I loved God, loved people, and led my family to the best of my ability.
I trust in my savior. His words are comforting and true, and when I fall into step with him, he carries my burdens and leads me to what is best. His spirit guides and coaches me throughout my race, and his voice calls out to motivate me to pursue the goals he set for me.
Discipline, vision, and trust. With these attributes, you can find and maintain the right pace. Even when I think the pace is too slow or the direction seems wrong or uncomfortable, Jesus continues to prove me wrong and provide exactly what is needed at precisely the right time. God has often guided me by moving at a pace that I think is incredibly slow while growing and developing me, and then immediately jumping to light speed at exactly the right time.
I am most tempted to lose my pace and press too hard when I turn my eyes away from my coach and towards the other runners. When we compare ourselves to others, we are tempted to change speed or direction to match what they are doing. But when we maintain discipline, vision, and trust in our savior and the one who knows the best plans for us, we can hold our pace and finish well.