May 29, 2015
Speed is not always required. I have to remind myself of that on a regular basis. I like to move fast and I never drive 5 mph under the speed limit. I walk fast. I talk fast. Around the church, I am told, my walk is distinctive because it is quick and purposeful. In this way, I am a product of my generation. We expect fast food, fast service, virtually instantaneous high-speed wireless internet. Someone once described young adults as the plug and play generation. In this assessment of our culture, there is often a not very subtle critique – we move too fast to be successful in the long-term.
This critique is best lived out in Aesop’s Fable, “The Tortoise and The Hare.” In the story, the slow tortoise races the speedy hare. The hare sprints ahead only to be deceived by his self-confidence; and because he takes a nap, the slow and steady tortoise proceeds to plod along to victory, ending with the well-known phrase: “slow and steady wins the race.”
This fable seems silly; of course the faster person normally wins. This is simply how the world works! I remember when I was in the 6th grade the first time that the coaching staff hosted timed races for the forty-yard dash. I now understand that this is the coach’s way of determining which kids are going to play football in a couple of years; and suffice it to say – I was not one of those kids. I had one of the slowest speeds in the entire class. Nobody who was fast ran ahead and then slept, letting me catch up.
To this day, I am still not the fastest guy, but I still haven’t given up. I raced in the Derby Day 10k this year at our church. A few years ago, I completed a 70.3 mile Ironman. My times weren’t great, but I finished; and that itself was a major accomplishment. Over time, I have begun to appreciate the fable of the tortoise and the hare for this one major reason: the tortoise never gave up. The remarkable thing is that the tortoise even agreed to a race; and that, when all things seemed hopeless, he continued. I believe that even if the hare had won, the tortoise would have finished the race; because the race is never about anybody else – it is about you. It isn’t the slow and steady who win the race; it is just the steady who wins because only they finish it.
I find this true in every aspect of life. As it says in Ecclesiastes 9:11: “the race doesn’t always go to the swift, nor the battle to the mighty, nor food to the wise, nor wealth to the intelligent, nor favor to the knowledgeable, because accidents can happen to anyone.” (CEB) The PhDs don’t go to the most intelligent; they go to the ones who can finish a dissertation. The best grades go to those who work hardest. The leadership goes to those who have put in hard work. It isn’t about speed – it is about dedication, in spite of speed or accidents or anything else.
This is also true for your faith. Too many people are looking for the quick fix or a jolt of spirituality. This is why I think people come to church around the holidays of Christmas and Easter – they want that boost of faith. The truth of our scriptures is that boosts of faith happen all the time. The Christians, on the day of Pentecost, had the boost of the Holy Spirit. And yet our scripture has story after story of times where the goal is to have a steady faith – to persevere.
Today, you may be on a major spiritual high or you may be struggling to have any faith at all. Both are fine as long as you stay steady. Consider this call from the book of Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” (NRSV)
The truth is that the steady (those who persevere) win the only race that counts – their own race.