Trying to work your body into optimum condition, as anyone knows who has tried to do it, is an incredibly difficult task, requiring discipline, perseverance, and quite a bit of faith. You can read all the books in the world about how muscle is built, how fat is lost, how to balance your diet, how often to train, how often to rest, and you can watch videos of examples and testimonials of “How it Worked for Me,” but until you step out and start doing something–anything–all of that knowledge avails you nothing. The same thing goes for us in the spiritual world. You can read all the books of the Bible along with a host of devotionals or inspirational authors, discover any philosophy or worldview, and even listen to the messages of others sharing “How it Worked for Me,” but until you act for yourself, experiencing something, all of that knowledge cannot change your life.
Today, as I’ve been attempting to habitually do, I went for a run. Getting back into the habit has been a struggle since, for the past week, I was fasting from food, and with such a depleted caloric intake, strenuous exercise was not advisable. As I started down the road, about 30 strides into it, my body said, “Forget it.” I started yelling at myself, “Nooo! You can do this! You did it yesterday!” Still, my body told me it wasn’t possible; nevertheless, I fought to keep a steady pace. A quarter-mile in, my RunKeeper alerted me that I was beating my 9-minute-mile target pace. At that point, my body accepted that this was possible, and co-operated with the rest of the run.
A lot of times, we approach things in our life with a “Pace Yourself” attitude, and it can be both positive and negative to do so. Perhaps the difference is the motivation behind the thought. When we say “Pace Yourself,” are we saying, “Make sure you have enough in you to finish the race,” or are we saying, “Don’t commit too much”? They both essentially mean the same thing, but they are two different sides of the same coin. One focuses on the completion of the course set before you, and the other focuses on holding back just in case the plan changes. One commits to completion, and works towards that end, and the other makes provision for not completing the course.
. . . or Not
So, should we pace ourselves, or not? I think the greater question is, what does it mean to you to pace yourself? Last week, as I attempted to share with someone the purpose of my fasting, I found myself saying that I want to pace myself with God, and I didn’t realize that what I was actually saying was, I’ll commit myself more or less fully depending on how much of the future God reveals to me. I’ll run faster if I know the finish line is just a mile away, or I’ll run slower if there’s still a long way to go. It made perfect sense to me, but God had to show me something about myself.
For me, pacing myself was a matter of commitment and investment. It seemed perfectly justifiable in a physical world, but what I wasn’t accounting for was the difference between me physically running vs. me spiritually running. In the physical sense, I do have a limited amount of strength and endurance. I cannot personally run a 2-hour marathon, nor can I beat Usain Bolt in a footrace. This is because my speed and stamina are determined by finite variables. However, if we look in the spiritual world, are there any finite variables for our strength? When I look in the spiritual world, I see promises that tell me unlimited strength is available to those who ask. Now I see that in this realm, my pace and progress are solely reflections upon my personal investment and commitment to the race ahead of me. This tells me that if I’m getting tired, I might not be running by God’s strength, but by my own.
In the end, we do need to pace ourselves. We should always pace ourselves in the sense that we should be definite in our determination to complete the course before us, by any means necessary. At the same time, we should never pace ourselves in the sense that we hold back in case things don’t go the way we want them to. Let’s strive to be committed to finish the race, in His strength and for His glory.