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Speed Limit Ahead

Greetings All,
This weeks
'thought'' comes from Michael Yaconelli's book "Messy Spirituality." It's a book for people tired of the relentless parade of success stories. It's for people who know their imperfections all too well and wrestle with sins they never quite conquer. It's for people who know their desperate need for God's grace in Jesus and cling to it with all tenacity.

The premise of the book (in my opinion) is found on page 13 where he states: "Accepting the reality of our broken, flawed lives is the beginning of spirituality not because the spiritual life will remove our flaws but because we let go of seeking perfection and, instead, seek God, the one who is present in the tangledness of our lives. Spirituality is not about being fixed; it is about God's being present in the mess of our unfixedness."

Michael passed away a few years back after spending 42 years in ministry. This thought is in memory of him. For his willingness to be transparent and for his many helpful insights.

The Sin of Speed and the Need for Increasing Slowness

"When my children were young, track meets filled part of each week during the spring. One particularly hot spring day, I attended a junior high track meet, arriving in the middle of the boys' 1500 meter race. During the last lap of the race, the audience stood, cheering two boys running side by side for the final 50 meters. A short distance behind them ran a pack of about four or five boys jockeying for third place... As I looked down the track, I saw one boy lagging far behind. Poor kid. The portly seventh grader struggled for each breath, his face red and sweaty, the main artery in his neck bulging and throbbing to supply oxygen to his deprived muscles. Suddenly the woman to my left stepped over me and rushed down to the railing overlooking the track -- obviously the boy's mother. She screamed, 'Johnny, run faster!' I wish you could have seen the incredulous look on the boy's face. He had to be thinking, 'Mom! I'm running as fast as I can!'

Spiritual growth does not happen by running faster. What keeps many of us from growing is not sin but speed. Most of us are like Johnny. We are going as fast as we can, living life at a dizzying speed, and God is nowhere to be found. We're not rejecting God; we just don't have time for him. We've lost him in the blurred landscape as we rush to church. We don't struggle with the Bible, but with the clock. It's not that we're too decadent; we're too busy. We don't feel guilty because of sin, but because we have no time for our spouses, our children, or our God. It's not sinning too much that's killing our souls, it's our schedule that's annihilating us. Most of us don't come home at night staggering drunk. Instead, we come home staggering tired, worn out, exhausted, and drained because we live too fast.

Speed is not neutral. Fast living used to mean a life of debauchery; now it just means fast, but the consequences are even more serious. Speeding through life endangers our relationships and our souls. Voices surround us, always telling us to move faster. It may be our boss, our pastor, our parents, our wives, our husbands, our politicians or sadly, even ourselves. So we comply. We increase the speed. We live life in the fast lane because we have no slow lanes anymore. Every lane is fast, and the only comfort our culture can offer is more lanes and increased speed limits. The result? Too many of us are running as fast as we can, and an alarming number of us are running much faster than we can sustain.

Speed damages our souls because living fast consumes every ounce of our energy. Speed has a deafening roar that drowns out the whispering voices of our souls and leaves Jesus as a diminishing speck in the rear view mirror. Spiritual growth is not running faster, as in more meetings, more Bible studies, and more prayer meetings. Spiritual growth happens when we slow our activity down. If we want to meet Jesus, we can't do it on the run. If we want to stay on the road of faith, we have to hit the brakes, pull over to the rest area, and stop. Christianity is not about inviting Jesus to speed through life with us; it's about noticing Jesus sitting at the rest stop...

The ugly truth, however, is that many of us do not know how to rest. Actually, we do know how to rest; we simply refuse to rest. [Adrenaline can be addicting!] * Rest is a decision we make. Rest is choosing to do nothing when we have too much to do, slowing down when we feel pressure to go faster, stopping instead of starting. Rest is listening to our weariness and responding to our tiredness, not to what is making us tired. Rest is what happens when we say one simple word: 'No!'

[Yet] Rest is the ultimate humiliation, because in order to rest, we must admit we are not necessary, that the world can get along without us, that God's work does not depend on us. Once we understand how unnecessary we are, only then might we find the right reasons to say yes. Only then might we find the right reasons to decide to be with Jesus, instead of working for him. Only then might we have the courage to take a nap with Jesus."

( * Parenthetical insertion my own. Learned by the experience of a fellow speeder.)
Living in the Grace of Jesus, Pastor Jeff

Dr. Jeffrey F. Evans