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The pace of grace

There’s a pace to grace. It’s like running a long distance race. No one in those races runs as fast as they can. Instead, they pace themselves so they’ll have enough strength to make it to the finish line. They find a nice rhythm on the straightaway to conserve energy so they’ll be able to make it up the hill. They temper their speed going down the hill so they won’t be exhausted when the terrain flattens out and they lose the advantage of gravity.

We hear the phrase “burned-out” quite often. It seems to me that in many cases what’s called burn out is actually just the failure to pace ourselves. We bow to the gods hurry, worry and scurry and let them dictate how we live. We soldier through because that’s what we think we’re supposed to do. We run slapdash here and there checking all of the boxes and posting it all on social media (so everyone can know we did do it). In the nanosecond of reflective time we have, we wonder if we’re coming down with something since we don’t feel all that great.

One of the fascinating things about Jesus’ life is that although He had the most important mission that anyone could ever have—He never seemed to be in a rush, out of sorts, or burned out. Instead, He approached life with pace and peace. How did He do this?

The answer isn’t hard to find. Comb through the gospel accounts and you’ll find Jesus regularly taking time to be alone with God in prayer. Luke informs us that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray” (5:16). In 22:39-41 he tells us “Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives . . . knelt down and prayed” (see also 4:42, 9:18, 11:1). We’re to see that not only was this solitary time with His Father a practice and priority for Him, it is what empowered the rest of His life.

When Paul speaks of disciples being “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2), he’s presenting the same truth from a slightly different vantage point. Instead of prayer, he speaks of us presenting our bodies to God as a living sacrifice. In presenting ourselves to God, we open our lives up to being transformed and renewed by Him (the same thing that happens through prayer). In another context, Paul will speak of how “though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Spiritually speaking, this renewal becomes our daily bread. It is the moment away from everything that empowers us for anything that might be headed our way. It comes with a price tag:  the willingness to step away from our busyness in order to recalibrate our hearts. You might think you just don’t have time to do this but the truth is you don’t have time not to do it. It is the way that Jesus maintained His closeness to God and the way we will as well.

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