My family loves basketball. Jed and Clay play the game, and we follow the Dallas Mavericks obsessively. I’ve learned that the team that can set the tempo for most of the game is often the team that wins. Especially if the team likes to play fast and can get the opposing team to speed up more than they usually would. Our star player Luka Doncic is gifted in many amazing ways, but one skill he is known for is his ability to play the game at his own pace – a slower pace. He doesn’t cave into the pressure from other teams to unnecessarily hurry his shots. Recently, when asked about his ability to maintain his steadiness, he said, “I play at my own pace because I’m not fast. I would like to be fast.” Despite his desire to possibly play with more quickness, he has the self-awareness to stay within his abilities when he’s playing.
Last Saturday, I woke up at 6:00 am and ran nonstop until 6:00 pm (after staying up late the night before working on a project). My son Clay had two middle school soccer games followed by solo and quartet bass performances for orchestra. My husband Ben was out of town with our oldest son Jed and therefore couldn’t assist. Thankfully, my daughter Riley helped with my youngest son Alex, or I wouldn’t have been able to manage the day. I felt harried but kept my head throughout the day until I had to rush home for something we forgot for orchestra. When a car cut me off, I honked, and the driver shrugged through his open window. That was when the pace of the day caught up to me. I honked again and gestured in a very un-Christian manner. After the anger subsided, I felt terrible about my behavior. I was so sped up with the rapidity of the day that I acted in a way that did not fit with the manner in which I want to conduct myself. I wasn’t playing the game at my own pace anymore.
While I couldn’t control the speed of life that day, on most other days I have a choice. Sometimes, I strike the right balance between productivity and rest that allows me to maintain my equilibrium. At other times though, I let external factors control my pace. My to-do list makes my mind frantic, and my emotions frayed. And that’s when I’m in danger of reacting to others in ways inconsistent with the person I want to be.
The author of Hebrews famously said, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Heb. 12:1-2). In the previous chapter, the writer detailed the journeys of many who’d gone before, such as Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Rahab, and others, who “by faith” had traveled their own unique journeys (Heb. 11). Then the writer advises us to persevere in our own race, looking to Jesus for help. He didn’t say we must all run the same race, at the same pace. Indeed, none of the people he listed encountered the same sets of circumstances.
The race or game for each of us will be different. If we keep that in mind, then perhaps we can pause and reassess when we find ourselves playing at a tempo that is not our own. We can pray for God’s guidance to discern the best way to manage our pace in any given season of life. We can stay true to ourselves and play our own game if we look to God and act “by faith.” No matter what, God will be with us every step of the way.