my gym taught me about the holy spirit

When I was in college, our university decided to spend a whoooooole lotta money building a state-of-the-art health and wellness facility. A fancy schmancy gym, in other words.

This gym had it all: a climbing wall, bouldering walls, group fitness rooms, massage rooms, several basketball courts, an indoor track, and-of course- a fitness area, with stationary machines and free weights. It seriously had everything, and my friends and I loved being there. It was even one of the places I taught yoga after I graduated.

It was beautiful.

One of the things that sticks out most in my mind, surprisingly, was a biking machine. Just your run-of-the-mill stationary bike machines… but with a flat screen for tv watching or progress keeping. WHAT.

The idea of watching television shows (especially the favored guilty pleasures like America’s Next Top Model or anything on MTV) (oh c’mon, you know you watched them too!) just floored me. It was like I wasn’t even working out!

But then I discovered the progress feature.

This was a stand alone program where you chose a time or a distance you wanted to cover, and then you could watch yourself traveling through terrain of your choice: city park path, mountain trails, etc… It looked a bit like a crappy video game (hey, it was only 2005, okay?), but kind of a 3D one, like the racing games in an arcade. There were other bikers that you could pass, there was cool scenery, you literally could steer yourself using the handlebars, and when the terrain changed, you felt it in your pedals. If you were going downhill, it suddenly got super easy to maintain pace or speed up. If you were going uphill, vice versa. And it sometimes got very, very difficult to pedal.

But honestly the coolest thing about that program was the Pacer.

This was a biker who kept the pace of an average bicyclist. If memory serves me correctly, you could even request a pace for it to follow. But maybe I made that up, I don’t really remember.

But what I do remember was how extremely, extemely valuable that pacer was because it was like built-in accountability. I could be listening to music or a podcast, or chatting with my girlfriend on the bike next to me, but if that dang Pacer passed me, I knew I was in trouble. I wasn’t keeping pace with the average, I wasn’t getting a workout, and I wasn’t accomplishing what I had set out to do when I showed up at that gym. So long as I kept the Pacer next to me, I knew I was doing a good job. I could even keep track of the Pacer behind me, and sometimes I raced myself to see how far I could get ahead of him (her?) by the time I hit the finish line.

It really drove me to improve, and even on lazier days it kept me from just sitting back and missing out on the intent of my time.

I tend to think of the Holy Spirit like that Pacer.

He keeps me going at a good pace as I work through all the programs of life: identity, relationships, family of origin…

It should be no surprise to you that I consider myself a Sprinter in Life.

This is the worst of all things to be, by the way, because life is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. It will be the longest thing we ever do. And sometimes all I ever want to do is just achieve it. It’s like when I go shopping- I never want to browse, or take stock, or just enjoy the trip. I want to go and get and depart. Or when I walk through botanical gardens. As much as I enjoy the beauty of nature, all I want to do is achieve the park. Get through it. See all the things. And then move on.

Unfortunately, that’s not how life goes. It’s most certainly not how spiritual life goes. Relationships, in particular, are not something we will ever achieve. Identity is not something we will ever arrive at. Life is a journey, and everything about it is, too. I’m married (hooray) but I didn’t arrive at this relationship. It’s something for me to work on, improve, refine, enjoy. Hardly ever to we enjoy the things we’re trying to accomplish, if our goal is to just accomplish it.

And I find myself struggling with wanting to just Accomplish All The Things.

But then Holy Spirit tugs gently at my heart, and I bend low to hear him whisper

keep pace.

Pacers aren’t meant to stress us out. They’re not meant to shame us. They’re meant to keep us on target, moving at a stride that is not overwhelming, but that has forward momentum in the direction of our goal(s).

When I’m working through identity issues, when I’m processing through hurts, when I’m grieving, when I’m growing… all these things are meant to be slow moving so as to be sustainable. Breakneck pacing is not sustainable, as much as I pretend it is. And Holy Spirit keeps pace with me. If I’m lagging behind, there’s conviction. If I’m racing ahead and missing things or injuring myself with whiplash, there’s a gentle whisper of

slow down.

And I’m brought back to a pace I can maintain for the next 50-60-80 years. One that keeps me growing and learning and refining, but not one that will bring me to an early death from overexertion and exhaustion.

Where’s your Pacer today? Are you far behind? Have you even left the couch? Are you racing ahead to The Next Thing too fast? Where are you in regards to relationships? How are you processing your different seasons of life, if at all? Spend some time with Holy Spirit asking him where he is in relation to where you are, and then get on the same pace.

You’ll be glad you did.

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