Makiah Brisco has been one of the world’s fastest runners for years: winning consistently during her college years at Louisiana State University and in international competition since then. At last weekend’s New Balance Indoor Grand Prix track meet in Staten Island, NY, she ran the fastest women’s 60-meter race of the year, with a time of 7:07 seconds. She didn’t start well, getting off behind three other runners. In a post-race interview she was asked, “What do you tell yourself when you’re not first off the blocks?” Makiah answered simply, “It’s patience!”
Huh? I expected her to say, “I tell myself, ‘Push harder! Dig deeper!'” But No, what she told herself was, “Patience!” The whole race was only 7:07 seconds long; how can you ask yourself to have patience at the 3 second mark? What does that even mean? You see that there are already three runners ahead of you, and your strategy to pass them for a victory is to relax?
Yup, just like real life. Life is brief. We want to use every second. We want to matter. We want to accomplish something. Others seem to be passing us by. This creates anxiety, and we try harder. But we seem to be falling farther behind, which leads to more anxiety. Ironically, when everything seems to be whirling around us, we add our own whirling, which can lead to total chaos. Makiah’s word for us would be “Patience! Stop your whirling.” But how can I stop in the middle of a life that seems only 7:07 seconds long?
There’s a saying that, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” Some have attributed this to Lewis Carroll; others quote it as a wise word from the Pennsylvania Dutch tradition. It’s true in every culture, and it’s a lesson we have to learn and relearn.
When ABC returned to live in-person worship a few months back, one thing it meant to me was wearing a white shirt and tie again. I began going up to the church about 9 am with my shirt unbuttoned at the neck, for comfort, and my tie in my pocket, while I was preparing in my office. When church-time drew near, usually about 20 minutes before the service, I’d go into the restroom, button my top button and tie my tie. But it wasn’t quite that simple.
First of all, you women don’t have any appreciation of how hard we men have it. Tying a tie is a physical, psychological and emotional challenge. It takes a real man to pull it off. After many struggles in my younger years, I developed a step-by-step pattern that’s become imprinted on my brain. I just do it unconsciously. Until I start thinking about it — then I’m in trouble.
Also, add the fact that I’m a bit past fifty and have arthritic fingers that don’t always follow orders. So, here I am, doing my last-minute tie-magic a few minutes before church, but the fingers are resisting the pre-programmed tying steps. I start thinking about what I’m doing wrong, and now I’m really in trouble. I’m not sure whether this step comes before that one, or vice versa. Let’s see, that didn’t work; maybe this way. Ah, got it! No, that’s too short; got to start over again. Look at the clock; I’m running out of time. Got to move these fingers faster. Are you kidding? The pressure, the pressure!
Finally, I give up and decide that the church might be ready for a more casual look, open collar tie-less. One more try, just for fun. Somehow, my more relaxed attitude makes this attempt successful, and my reputation as an old-school traditional pastor is intact.
Those of us who feel that we can’t keep up with the pace of life need to listen to Makiah’s simple advice — “Patience!” We can hear the same advice through a wonderful psalm, that has calmed believers’ spirits for many generations:
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices. (Psalm 37:7)
If you read the whole psalm, you’ll find that those who have faith in God can base their patience on three aspects of their relationship with him: Trusting in him (verse 3); Delighting in him (verse 4); and Committing to him (verse 5). You will also discover a very appropriate way to describe your unhealthy anxiety, used in verse 1, 7 and 8: “Do not fret.” The Hebrew word translated by “fret” has a root meaning of burning, being overheated.
So, I’ll add this way of expressing Makiah’s mid-race advice: “Stay cool, Dude!” Life is only 7:07 seconds long! It’s not helpful to get overheated.
– Pastor George Van Alstine