Sunday, August 9, 2009

Slow Down, You’re Going Too Fast

I would much rather listen to “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy),” by Simon and Garfunkel, than get pulled over by a highway patrol trooper in the state of Nevada… like I did on our last family trip to California. The message from both is about the same, but the song is much more pleasant to listen to. Since we are getting ready to make the trip again, I thought the memory worth a little reflection. There is no need for history to repeat itself.

You can probably guess some of the details of the incident, and the conversation that transpired between me and the trooper. What I will tell you is that we were in-between two construction zones when I got the ticket, but apparently the double-fine clause for construction zones was still in effect. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

Thinking of this speeding memory brought another story to mind. I was serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Fresno, California. I remember riding my bicycle on one occasion when the assistants to the mission president passed me in their vehicle. We waved to each other and then they shouted, “Elder, where is your companion?” I turned around to look but couldn’t see him anywhere. “Great,” I thought. I turned around to retrace my path and found him about half a mile behind me. He was coming along at his own pace and didn’t feel a need to catch up very quickly. Later, we became good friends, but I’m not sure he felt that way at that moment.

Finding a good pace in life isn’t easy. Sometimes we choose a speed for ourselves that is too fast for our good. At other times we may set a pace that is too fast for family, friends, or those we associate with. This can happen with expectations, goals, relationships, or personal efforts to do good things. A few years ago Elder L. Tom Perry taught that we should, “move at a pace slow enough that [others] will not be left behind and fast enough to keep the journey interesting.” This certainly requires a great deal of balance.

I have recently taken up bike riding again with the same bicycle I had on my mission. It has been a good bike for me, but the rear tire is a little quirky after getting hit by a car. Though I didn’t sustain any personal damage in the accident, the impact of the car bent the rear fork of the bike enough that the rear tire rubs slightly against the frame. This gives the rider a strange resistance feeling that is similar to using the gas pedal and the brake pedal simultaneously while driving a car. Occasionally I consider replacing the bike, but I am still on the “use it up, wear it out” part of the old pioneer adage.

The condition with my bike has provided me with some unique analogies. The “lesson of the tires” really has more to do with desire. Because the front tire typically doesn’t have any resistance, it allows me to go as fast as I am willing to pedal. The rear tire, however, places added constraints which force me to go slower. Each of us has desires that need to be controlled or tempered. Restraint is not always fun, but it is healthy.

As my wife and I discussed this post together, she suggested that I try a different approach to accelerating my personal goals. “Rather than using your gas pedal and brake pedal so much, why not just set your cruise control?” Once again, I had to admit that the wife is always right. Pace is more important than speed in long-distance matters of life.

The lesson of the tires also has application in our individual pursuits for perfection. The charge from the Savior in Matthew 5:48, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” is not easily obtained. We may be full of desire to achieve perfection, but we will only do so as we meet and overcome resistance. Sometimes the resistance comes from unseen sources. Sometimes it comes as we self apply the brakes to our progression through decisions that are really not good for us. There are yet other times in which our expectations exceed our abilities. The front tire may represent our desire to do good, while the rear tire may represent what we are capable of in our mortal condition.

While I do believe we should do everything within our power to stretch and challenge ourselves, I do not believe we should feel guilty for the things we are not yet capable of. This is a common danger of going too fast. I think there is a significant difference between Godly sorrow and the guilt we inflict upon ourselves because we are not doing everything we think we should. Disappointment has a lot to do with our expectations. Father’s expectations are often much different from our own. Recognizing the source of the guilt will greatly affect the amount of peace we allow ourselves to feel. King Benjamin taught in Mosiah 4:27, “see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength.”

In Doctrine & Covenants 93:12-14, Joseph Smith recorded how the Savior came to the earth and set a pattern for us to follow. The revelation says, “he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace;” As Jesus made correct choices, He received the promised blessings for His obedience. “And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness; And thus he was called the Son of God, because he received not of the fulness at the first.” Jesus followed this pattern of progression one step at a time, or grace to grace, until He received a fullness from the Father.

What a blessing it is to know that the Savior, Jesus Christ, came here to set an example for us. Though we are not perfect as he is, we can worship the Father by following the Son, until we receive grace for grace.

Progression follows a continuous steady path. It may not always seem linear to us, but there are natural steps we must take before we can move forward. The prophet Nephi recorded the Lord’s teachings on this subject in 2 Nephi 28:30, saying, “I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept... for unto him that receiveth I will give more...”

Father wants us to learn, and He is ready to teach us, step by step. How often, then, do we place unrealistic expectations on others or ourselves? It is not necessary for us to skip a line or two to progress faster. It is also not very helpful when we expect others to skip a few paragraphs to meet our expectations, if they are not yet capable.

We will have more peace in our hearts if we are willing to accept ourselves and others for what we are. We will also have more happiness if we then try to inspire others to be better, starting where they are. I always appreciate inspiration over unnecessary guilt. Remember, there is no need to run faster than you have strength. Why expect any more of others than we would ask for ourselves?

It is tempting to compare yourself with others. When you are in a race, you can’t help notice when you are passing someone, or they are passing you. What matters most, though, is not how fast we are going, but whether or not we are progressing. Our progress is not dependent upon anyone else but us and the Lord. It is not necessary to compare ourselves with others.

I believe that Father is more concerned about direction than perfection. In addition to our actions, we will be judged by the thoughts and intents of our hearts. If my heart is like a compass, pointing the direction my actions will take me, then I need to watch my heart very closely. Once my course is chosen, then I can set a pace for myself – hopefully one where I won’t get another ticket.


Katie said...

Thoughts on this topic have been the subject of many quiet moments lately. I really appreciated your thoughts on this. As always, thanks for sharing!

jendoop said...

Love the bike analogy. My achy body seems to be my resistant wheel. I keep trying to pretend it isn't there and wear myself out in the process. Thanks for the encouragement to set my heart in the right direction and cruise. (I think my family enjoys my company more when I'm set on cruise)

John McConkie said...

I wish I could say that my cruise control works like it should. All too often I find myself still braking and accelerating too much. I think my cruise control is broken.

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