Biola Avenue. Any Biola University alumnus remembers its speed limit of 30 miles per hour. Some were reminded by the nice folks from the LA County Sheriff’s Department the “hard way.” “It’s not fair,” they would say. “Such a nice, wide boulevard with so much room, such smooth pavement; my car just can’t help itself!”
While driving the other day, I realized there is a speed that feels really comfortable to me. It’s not the “flat out” my older brother used to embrace in his younger years. Nor is it the crawl some of those senior citizens seem to relish. No, I’ve decided it’s 40 miles an hour. Let me tell you why:
- at 40, you’re still making good progress without the feel of dragging along.
- at 40, one is usually within acceptable speed limits on suburban streets, not tending to hit the brakes in a panic when noticing a black and white behind you.
- at 40, it is still possible to observe and appreciate your surroundings without rear-ending the person in front of you or running down joggers and innocent school children.
- at 40, you’re going slow enough to stop in time should circumstance dictate.
I’ve also concluded that, metaphorically speaking, 40 miles per hour is my best speed for living life. Of course, there are those times when I have to go fast to finish a project or keep up with a host of activities particular to a certain time of year (like the little league/soccer schedules of my grand children). We all have fast times, for sure.
But the life speed that will enable me to go the long haul, continue to be effective, enjoyable to live with, and strong enough to handle the load, is a cruising speed of 40. Perhaps I first started becoming comfortable with this pace as a boy on our family farm. Life came and went in seasons. Spring and Summer were frenetic at times, but Fall and Winter balanced everything out as the ice and snow forced me to slow down, look both ways, and proceed with caution.
The rhythm of those years is a part of me, and has helped me find my speed limit in this crazy age of incessant and unrelenting activity, connectedness, and driven-ness. I believe all of you who have stopped long enough to read this need to consider your optimal speed. Are you racing along the street of ministry, distracted, feeling overwhelmed, burned out, wondering if there isn’t a better life somewhere?
If so, your issue isn’t so much the hard work of ministry, it’s that you’re racing along at a pace that is dangerous, one your body, mind and soul were not made to endure over the long course of life. Here are a few suggestions that might help you slow down and discover a more healthy cruising speed in your service for Christ.
The weekend of March 4-5 was the National Day of Unplugging. Created by the good people of Sabbath Manifesto.org, this annual event is inspired by the Jewish Sabbath day observance. You all know what that is, of course. But modern society (Jewish included), has forgotten the meaning and benefit of taking one day a week for rest and worship of our God.
The Sabbath Manifesto offers ten principles to observe this weekend: “avoid technology, connect with loved ones, nurture your health, get outside, avoid commerce, light candles, drink wine, eat bread, find silence, and give back.”
Taking a break from technology is not enough. We must not make the mistake of going right back to the frantic pace we escaped for a moment. It is crucial we re-set our life to run at a sustainable and healthy speed. This certainly includes taking an honest look at your schedule. You don’t have to be so busy. Not really. That has been clearly demonstrated by Carmageddon and Coronageddon, when major freeways here in southern California were shut down for repairs during two separate weekends. Traffic was actually lighter during those closures. People spent time at home, hanging out with family and friends in the neighborhood, and generally feeling more rested when they hit the streets on Monday.
Set Your Cruise Control
Once you have discovered what life pace suits you best, make sure you program it into your work and play schedules. Without a conscious attentiveness, you will speed up (most of you), or maybe even grind to a halt (the rest of you). Ask your spouse, friends, co-workers, and/or children to help you out here. We’ve all experienced catching ourselves exceeding the speed limit on the freeway or country road. Occasionally, we need someone to tell us, “slow down, you’re going too fast!”
Consider Your Passengers
We are not on this road of life alone. Our best speed may be fun to us, but is it healthy for our travel mates? When I went on road trips in my youth I got used to stopping at road-side historical markers, taking short hikes at rest stops, pulling over to sample a farmer’s fresh fruit, and taking pictures at visa points. I recall one trip to California when we spent an entire morning on the road and only covered 50 miles.
We all have a different optimal life speed, and not everyone could tolerate a 50 miles pace from breakfast to lunch. So negotiating becomes critical. Give and take is important in all of life, and a healthy friendship, family, or ministry team makes the commitment to appreciate and flex with one another’s speed limits.
Remember the Gospel
This may surprise you, but I think we sometimes forget the essence of the good news: that we are saved by grace through faith, as a gift of God, not by works, that no one should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). No faithful Biola/Talbot alumnus would disagree with this timeless and blessed truth, but I imagine that more than a few of us act like our security in Christ is up to us. If we work harder, do more stuff, get more involved with the church and community, somehow we’ll be in better standing with our Lord and Savior.
As Paul continues to the Ephesian brethren, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (verse 10). Our labors flow from the complete and eternal salvation we were given, and are an expression of God’s expert craftsmanship and provision. Embracing this wonderful reality enables us to cruise down the road unrushed, arriving at our daily destinations to his glory and honor.