Life moves at an extremely fast pace, wouldn’t you agree? Too many times there are too many things on the to-do list. I often wonder, how on earth will I accomplish all that needs to be done. There are meetings to be had, kid’s activities to attend, housework to be done, people to see and places to go - all thrown on top of physical ailments, a stressful job or marriage, broken relationships, or financial difficulties. I am no different than the average over-worked, over-stimulated, over-whelmed American.
With Christmas upon us, we find ourselves in the midst of one of the prime fast-paced seasons of the year. Be the first in line for the Black Friday specials. Put your Christmas tree up before Thanksgiving. Tear open the gifts in record time. Hurry from feast to feast and banquet to banquet. Our December days become jam packed with baking and shopping and our December nights with programs, wrapping and more shopping. It’s easy to get so busy that we fail to slow down and enjoy this joyous season.
Sometimes I feel like I need a pace car.
I’m not a huge racing fan, but I recently learned a few facts about pace cars that peeked my interest. In motor sports the pace car (also known as the safety car) limits the speed of competing cars on a racetrack. During a caution, the safety car enters the track ahead of the leader. Competitors are not allowed to pass the pace car or other competitors during a caution, and the pace car leads the field at a pre-determined safe speed. Cars use less fuel while running behind the safety car (usually half as much as under racing conditions), which can allow drivers to run longer on a tank of fuel than originally expected.
We get driving so fast in this race called life. Most of the time competing against people who are supposed to be our team mates. Sometimes we make good decisions about taking a pitstop to refuel and check our tires. More frequently we push it to the limit. We don’t seem to grasp the benefit of having a pace car. If we slow down long enough to ponder the thought, we would realize that driving at a more steady speed allows us to run more efficiently.
Hurrying has dramatic negative effects on us. When we are always running at a fast pace, our energy becomes depleted and our stress level goes up. But we continue to go on and on and on. When will we realize that we are not the Energizer Bunny? Besides increasing stress, rushing from place to place has a way of stealing our joy. The faster we move in life, the less time we seem to have to enjoy it. It’s much harder to pay attention to the detail of the landscape or the beauty of the sunset when racing at 200 miles per hour. We don’t know what we’re truly missing until we enter the caution and follow the pace car.
Artists realize that the faster they go, the less productive they are. Traveling at the speed of light causes us to lose the ability to think and act creatively. I have been known to spend much time scrapbooking and making homemade cards. I know for a fact that if I rush, that’s when I make the most mistakes. But taking it slow allows for a steady hand and a mind open to imagination and the flow of ideas.
Most importantly though, is the fact that when I’m pushing it to the limit, I can’t hear God. It’s hard to listen to anyone when we’re in a hurry. Take for example, you’re rushing out the door just as your child gets home from school. He desperately wants to tell you about his day, so as you are putting on your coat, grabbing your purse and the car keys, you nod your head and say, “uh-huh, uh-huh, that’s nice honey - gotta run”. You may have caught a few of his words, but your mind was not focused on him. In the process, you miss out on the detail and you also hurt your child’s feelings. How do we make God feel when we are so wrapped up in getting from place to place, success to success, that we don’t take the time to stop and listen to His voice?
“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
We get to know our God when we slow down, be quiet and become still. Activity creates noise and noise drowns out the voice of God. But how do we slow down in a society that seems to encourage us to be constantly doing - in a culture that promotes fast food, high speed, convenience, and get rich quick schemes?
It’s time we destroy the myth that makes us believe that the more we do the more worthy we become. In other words, the more I do, the more valued, loved, and respected I am. We are constantly attempting to prove our worth. The busier I am, the more important I am - right? No way. This process is just a vicious cycle of constantly trying to gain the approval of others, draining a tank that’s already on E.
It’s time we crush the thought that life is a competition. It’s not. The bumper sticker that says, “He who dies with the most toys wins” is a lie from the enemy. The fact is that you are not in a competition with anybody. You are unique, a one of a kind masterpiece created by God. Everything about you is only yours and no one else’s. Competitions arise when we compare ourselves to others and that in turn only leads to discontentment. Discontentment fosters discouragement, jealousy and pride. Realizing you are not competing against anyone in life is a freeing concept. When you feel free and content, you tend to slow down the pace.
Sometimes we have to cut something out in order to slow down. The things we let go of may be good things, but are they the BEST things. Personally, I have discovered that the more I put on my plate the less effective I become in all areas. I would rather do a few things and make a huge impact than to do many things and impact very few. Focus on your strengths, your passions, the things you enjoy and the areas God has gifted you in. You will accomplish much more when you concentrate on your strengths and your priorities. Any more than that is destined for burn-out.
God thought slowing down was such an important concept that He even made it one of the Ten Commandments - the 4th one to be exact. “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy”. Sabbath literally means “day of rest”. The older I get the more I realize I NEED a day during the week to unwind and refresh. When I don’t, I become irritable and short-tempered, not to mention just plain tired. God knew from the time the earth was created and all living things were formed that we would need to rest - that we would need to set aside a day in our busy week to slow down. Disengaging from a strenuous lifestyle can provide us with the needed mental, physical and emotional break - a break from the “doing” of life. On the other hand - the spiritual hand - the Sabbath is a time to center our focus on worshipping God and worship has a way of placing life in perspective. Perspective helps us to make wise decisions. If I don’t take time to worship and get my focus on God and all that He has done for me, well then my focus remains on me. And if I’m too busy to worship God, well then I’m just too busy.
I truly believe God has a way of using life’s circumstances to slow us down when we don’t do it for ourselves. He may use physical illness and put us to bed. He may get us off the roads due to an ice storm. Or, he may use law enforcement. Twice in two months, I was pulled over by a policeman for speeding. I was appalled at the fact that I shattered a 17-year crystal clear driving record all because I was in too much of a hurry. The most amazing part of it all is that the kind officers took pity on me, only issuing warnings on both occasions. I have no doubt in my mind that God was teaching me a most valuable lesson - slow down. Not just on the road in my vehicle, but in the race of life. I was spared from the consequence, not just once, but two times. You better believe I’m watching the speedometer much closer these days. I am striving to stay in the caution, safely following close behind the pace car - which will eventually lead me home.