Keeping pace can be tricky, especially when the pace setter is an unseen Spirit taking us to unknown places at changing paces.
As someone who used to run for fun in a former life, I know from experience that everyone has a natural pace that is most comfortable to them. The best running mates are those who run along a similar pace. Slowing down or speeding up’s one natural pace in an effort to stay with a pace setter can be terribly challenging.
This week I took an excruciatingly long walk with my three-year old to the library nearby our house. It sounded like such a picturesque idea, the two of us walking to return our books, enjoying the weather and each other’s company. The first thirty feet were truly wonderful, but every subsequent step became more and more painful. Because he was pushing his blue Ikea cart and because he was so filled with wonder at every flower or blade of grass and because he picked up two unfortunate roly poly hitchhikers, the pace became painfully slow. It literally took us an hour to walk less than a mile, and by the time we returned home, I was in quite a state. The entire walk, I wrestled between submitting to the painfully slow pace in order to enjoy the presence and company of my son and demanding a pace that was more comfortable and natural to me.
I learned a profound truth as my impatience and frustration were heating to a boil during our walk: I like to be the pace setter. I like to be in control. I like things to happen at my pace. Anything too fast makes me angry, anything too slow makes me irritable.
The entire day following our walk, I could not get the following verse out of my mind.
Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatains 5:25.
Short and simple, right? Wrong.
Learning to keep pace with the Spirit of God is far more challenging and maddening at times than an uncomfortably slow trip to the library or a painfully fast sprint up a hill.
The Greek word translated “keep in step with” is stoicheo which means “to walk in line with, to keep in strict accordance to a particular pace, to walk in cadence with.” Essentially, Paul told the Galatian Church and tells us that the Holy Spirit is the pace setter, and we are called to walk in cadence with Him.
This sounds simple but is profoundly difficult to live out regularly and practically.
Just like there was intense inward struggle in my heart as we walked to the library, learning to submit to the Spirit’s pace each day will require great internal struggle.
During some life seasons, the Spirit will have us running at such fast paces that we feel like we cannot even catch our breath. Whether we called to care for aging parents on top of an already full plate, to fight a battle against cancer or chronic illness or to work two jobs to keep the bills paid, the pace during some seasons can feel unsustainable and painful.
On the other hand, the Spirit sometimes calls us to walk at a painfully slow paces. In these seasons, He seems to hold us in prolonged waiting and wondering; we feel like we are barely moving and our souls want so desperately to sprint ahead. Maybe we are waiting on a job or a spouse or a child or maybe we are staying at home with young children when we desperately desire the pace of our former career; whatever the specific circumstances, learning to keep a slower pace to keep in step with the Spirit can be equally painful.
What enables us to continually submit to our Heavenly pace setter, no matter the pace?
Just like my desire to enjoy Phin and be with him overcame my desire for efficiency and speed on our walk, a longing to be in His presence will keep us returning to His pace, despite discomfort and frustration. It will not be easy, it will not be comfortable and we will not be in control, but we must fight to keep in step with the Spirit.
We must remember that the One who sets the pace knows how to lead us to the life that is truly life.
You will make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures your right hand. Psalm 16:11.