“And let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” — Hebrews 12:1 (KJV)
Former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden once had a saying that he’d tell his players: “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” It was a reminder to them to stay alert, be agile, but also be careful to do things right. Don’t get in a rush and forget the intangibles. In an effort to be fast and make a play, he didn’t want them making mistakes and costing the team in some way.
Anyone who has watched speed skating knows it’s a sport of speed but also calculation. You need to know the time you have to beat, and you need to get off quick and maintain your speed, but you also need to pace yourself so you have enough at the end to turn in a good time.
Former Olympic-champion speed skater Joey Cheek once observed that “many skaters pay for those fast early laps,” especially in the longer distance races. At the 2022 Winter Olympics, he noted how, in the 5,000-meter race, a young Swedish skater made up more than three full seconds (an eternity in speed skating!) in his final three laps to secure Olympic gold. Cheek added, “When everyone is falling apart at the seams, you have to find a way to get stronger, dig deeper.”
As is typical of human nature, many of us are inconsistent in our daily lives. We are often more like the skaters who go out fast and burn out, leaving ourselves with nothing at the end. We burn out. We fade out. We try to hurry and end up costing ourselves some valuable energy and time that we’ll never get back. Admittedly, we’re poor at managing ourselves lap after lap. We can lose sight of what matters in the race — that this isn’t a sprint, and we’re in this thing for the long haul. We go out too quickly and pay for it later.
And, when it comes to our spiritual life, we are no different. Many of us set out to follow God with great intentions and lots of energy, only to find ourselves struggling to hope and believe further on in the race. Our weariness in doing the things we must to keep moving forward and stay upright catches up with us, and we start to watch our speed dwindle, our motivation wane, our discipline dissipate. This is one reason I love the reminder in Hebrews 12:1 (above) of not just running the race but doing so “with patience” (or endurance/perseverance in other translations) because we have to pace ourselves, trusting God to sustain us.
That young Swede saved enough in the tank at the end that, when others had faded and lost time, he made that time up and gave himself a shot at victory. We all get tired. Isaiah 40:30-31 notes that “even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall.” But what is the next promise? That “those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength.” Do life at God’s speed, and you never have to worry about burnout.
“Be quick, but don’t hurry.”
— Katherine Singer
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