For the past few weeks, I've been preparing for an upcoming race. It's not a long thing, but let's just say my prep has been...lacking. Borderline non-existent.
I really do enjoy running, and I'd like to get to a place where I'm able to participate in longer races more confidently.
As I've been reading about longer races, I've come across an interesting component most of them include: the pace sweeper. This is usually a runner, car, or bike that sets an average pace for runners to gauge their performance during a race.
The pace sweeper serves another function. After a certain distance, those behind the pace sweeper are diverted from the rest of the track. For those runners, that's it. The race is over. #yougotswept
Now I know this pace sweeper serves a practical purpose (preventing unnecessary exhaustion, allowing roads to open back up, etc.), but it's gotten me thinking whether or not there's an equivalent in daily life.
We're going to be discussing adulthood this month at CityView, and it is with regard to this concept that I see the specter of the pace sweeper most clearly.
Let's just admit it: There's a silent perception of what it "really" looks like to be a grown-up.
It's like a pace sweeper car that broadcasts a loud message, "You're falling behind. You should be up here. What's wrong with you? You're missing out if you don't catch up. What's wrong with you? You don't want to be a failure, do you? What's wrong with you?"
And therein lies the lie. The implication of that pervasive broadcast is that if I don't "measure up," I'm going to get swept to the side.
When I look at my own life, it doesn't follow the "average pace" to adulthood very closely. Maybe you can relate:
- Juggled multiple part-time jobs instead of one stable full-time job? Been there.
- Did the living-with-parents thing after college? Yup.
- Experienced seasons of lacking direction or purpose? Double yup.
What I sense from public perception of these traits is that somehow I have missed the mark of adulthood. When I have allowed that perception to affect me, it results in discouragement and frustration.
I'm not trying to justify bad behavior. Negligence, laziness, selfishness, and greed are all marks of childish mindsets, no matter your age. I'd like to think that in those circumstances listed above, I was trying to do the right thing with what was available to me. In the midst of them, I learned much about myself and my relationship with God.
Isn't it interesting that the Bible doesn't give us a very good sense of Jesus's formative years, his transition into adulthood? From the Gospels' perspectives, he's a child in one chapter, and a rabbi in the next. Two of them just start outright with him as an adult!
Here's what we get: "And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor." (Luke 2:52)
If there was some kind of pace sweeper camel for adulthood in Jesus's time, would he have been ahead of the pack? I'm not so sure:
- Stable homeowner? Nope. (Luke 9:57-58)
- Gainfully employed? Not really. (Luke 8:1-3)
- 10 year plan for his 30's? Not seeing it. (Matthew 20:17-19)
- Married & 2.5 kids? Nada.
Could it be that there are better metrics for adulthood than this? What about wisdom, care for others, or humility? What about relentless love? Isn't that what we see in Jesus?
Part of the problem with the "pace sweeper" of adulthood is that it comes from me relinquishing my identity to the opinions and comparisons of others. Nothing in Scripture affirms this way of understanding myself.
So let me say this as clearly as I can for you and for me:
THERE IS NO PACE SWEEPER.
Instead, there is the grace I experience from God through knowing Jesus.
Christian theologian and author Brennan Manning put it best for me, "God loves you unconditionally, as you are and not as you should be, because nobody is as they should be."1
Are there healthy qualities that mark a person being an adult? Yes. Do we all arrive there at the same time or in the same way? No. Does that make you or me less valuable to God? Absolutely not.
The Bible indeed talks about our lives as a race to be run. But make no mistake, it is not a rat race of false identity with a pace sweeper of popular opinions. In Christ, it is a race full of grace with co-runners to encourage us along the way, and that makes it a race worth running.
I hope you'll come out to CityView this month, "Adult...ish," Nov. 12 @ 7:00pm at the Vintage Arts Center (4523 Magazine St.). We've got live music, tasty food, and plenty of good conversations to be had. See you there.
1 Brennan Manning and John Blase, All Is Grace: a Ragamuffin Memoir. (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2015), 192. (emphasis was mine)