This week, I’ve been reflecting on 2019, and how I felt the word Zeal was one that would shape my mindset for the year best. What’s always crazy to me is just how accurate a word I choose at the very beginning of the year is for the year in its entirety. However, this year I feel it is important to admit that while zeal—my word for 2019—was a very prevalent theme for my year, it was also prevalent in its absence at points during the year. What I mean is, there were times zeal was effortless for me, and there were times I didn’t even realize I was letting something or someone take my zeal. But, even in that, the theme was still there—I just often had to go through major reset periods to realize I had not been actively choosing zeal, and that I wanted to get back to that.
As I began thinking about 2020, I had a harder time than normal finding the right word. (And if you want to laugh, know that the word finally came to me at the gym 😂) Joking aside, I have recently become more aware than ever before of just how much pressure exists in my life (and in your life!)—external and internal pressures alike. There are external pressures of arbitrary timelines, standards you don’t think you can live up to, people who have achieved things you feel like you’ll never achieve, people who don’t believe you can achieve those things, and you can fill in the blank here. But there are also a lot of internal pressures—feelings of inadequacy, fears of not being needed, thoughts about the future that can be so big that they feel crushing, and again, so much more.
When I tried to condense that seemingly exhaustive list into one phrase, the best I could come up with is “I feel pressure to keep the pace.” I think that can be applied to almost every external and internal pressure I personally face, and maybe ones you feel, too—I feel pressure to keep the pace with academic achievements; I feel pressure to keep the pace of my life’s timeline with those around me; I feel pressure to keep the pace in spiritual maturity with those I lead with; I feel pressure to keep the pace as a steady anchor for those around me that need my help; you can insert your own thoughts here, too: I feel pressure to keep the pace in ______.
Whatever you or I write in that line, we both feel the overarching pressure of pace. When I was in a pilates class the other day as referenced above, I heard the instructor say “go at your own best pace” and I immediately had a weird feeling that was for me; like that was going to be an important phrase for me.
I want to be careful here, though, about that phrase. I’m not suggesting by any means with the idea of going at your own best pace that your pace is something you choose. Rather, I’m definitely suggesting that your own best pace is what aligns with God’s best pace for you. I also believe God’s best pace is not always in line with the pace of those around you, but that’s okay. There’s a cool sort of independence in the dependence here—depending on God’s pace gives you independence and freedom from the pressures you feel to match pace with others around you. If you’re matching God’s pace for your life, then that is your own best pace.
Out of curiosity, I googled the definition of pace just to see what it might say. Now I’m laughing because of how great the definitions are: one definition says pace is a single step taken (when walking or running). Another says pace is consistent and continuous speed (in walking, running, or moving). A final says that pace is to proceed.
I started laughing because I realized just how much I need a word like this framing my mindset every day, because of how innately simple it is! According to all those definitions, pace is as simple as one step taken. Consistency. Proceeding. I think I can start there.
The relevance of all the definitions for the word ‘pace’ is an important place to pause because claiming a word for the year means nothing without also understanding how to let that word shape you each day. And if pace just means one step taken, then I understand ‘keeping the pace’ just means taking one step. The next step. Proceeding forward, with consistency, towards future things. That is about as simple as it gets, and that’s what made me laugh—Sometimes, I seem to have this great ability to make things much more complicated than they actually are, especially in regards to my future and what’s next. This year, with big decisions looming that I currently have no clarity on, it will be increasingly important to remember that keeping the pace is just taking the first next step. And then the next, and the next, so on and so forth, one at a time.
I think this passage from Psalm 119 is an important prayer for keeping God’s pace for your life:
“My soul clings to the dust;
give me life according to your word!
When I told of my ways, you answered me;
teach me your statutes!
Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
My soul melts away for sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word!
Put false ways far from me
and graciously teach me your law!
I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
I set your rules before me.
I cling to your testimonies, O Lord;
let me not be put to shame!
I will run in the way of your commandments
for you set my heart free!
Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes;
and I will keep it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
and observe it with my whole heart.
Lead me in the path of your commandments,
for I delight in it.”
—Psalm 119:25-35, emphasis added
The following passage from Ecclesiastes also encourages me about the unique specificity of timelines in our lives:
“For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.
What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”
—Ecclesiastes 3:1-11, emphasis added
Everything is beautiful for its own time. For everything there is a season. These are two of the most encouraging scriptural statements for me.
As we go into 2020, it’s my prayer that we will all find our pace, and that we will all resist the pressures we face to follow someone else’s pace. May you find freedom in not having to strive for perfection in any aspect of your life’s pace. May you find the zeal that lies within the pace God has for your life, and may you find peace in just taking the next step, one step at a time.