A big, smiling welcome to you! This post is part of a series I’m working my way through in the month of October, called Swim Your Own Race. If you’d like to start at the beginning (it is a very good place to start, after all) you can do so, right here. I hope you enjoy diving in!


I once was in an outside lane, getting ready to swim a 100 meter freestyle. Now in case you’re not familiar with the sport of swimming, allow me to let you in on a few little details that are probably obvious, but still worth reviewing. First, your pace is pretty central to your race. Every swimmer has a different pace, and there’s a pace appropriate for every swimmer for every race. Better put, you cannot swim a 500 meter freestyle at the same pace that you swim a 50 meter freestyle. For the 50, you’re all-out-Michael-Phelps-sprinting with everything you’ve got. You are going for it as hard as you possibly can. Some swimmers don’t even take a breath on a 50 meter freestyle. They just go.

The 500 meter freestyle, on the other hand, is a different story. You will be making the trek from one end of the pool to the other over, and over, and over again. You’ll be counting the laps and you’ll be careful about your pace. You do NOT want to give out of gas.

Now back to the story. I once was in an outside lane — and even though this was ages ago, I can still picture it clearly. Being a bit of a ninnymuggins, I decided I’d try to keep pace with the girl in the lane next to me, though I did not know her from a bar of soap. Now the pools you see folks swimming in at the Olympics are 50 meters long. But the pools your average high school swimmer is hitting are 25 meters long. This means for a 50 meter race, you’ll swim down, flip turn, and swim back. And, in case you need a little help with your math, for a 100 meter race, you’ll swim down, come back, swim down, and come back once more.

So I started the race with an eye on the girl next to me. She could’ve been swimming for the Junior Olympics and I wouldn’t have known it. I started out on my 100 meter freestyle with a pace more like a 50. I was energetic, I was excited to make a good time, I was going for it.


At the first turn, I was still doing well. I felt good. The girl next to me was definitely getting ahead of me, but at least I would probably rock a faster time than usual. By the second flip turn, I realized I’d made a bit of a mistake, attempting a pace that I just couldn’t keep. I’d already slowed down my pace considerably, but my body was tired from practically sprinting the first 50 of the race. By the last flip turn, I was headed toward the home stretch grateful I was still swimming. My body wanted to stop and recover but I still had one length of the pool to go.

Every. stroke. was. hard.

Halfway through that last length, I felt like a grand piano was weighing me down. I imagined that onlookers probably thought I looked like somebody just learning to swim — my slow and sloppy strokes were the efforts of a kid who was almost giving out. I’m pretty sure I was the last to touch the wall on that race. I did not achieve my best time in a 100 meter freestyle that day. And I’m pretty sure the reason why is obvious to all of us. But to make sure you get the joy of learning from my rookie mistake, let’s still talk about it:

Pace is important.

Pace is essential.

You can’t race well without considering your pace.

And one more thought, before we dive into hashing this out:

Your pace will not be the same as anybody else’s.

Yesterday we talked about the goodness of Jesus, the Swimmer our glorious Head Coach sent as a substitute, to swim the perfect race we couldn’t swim. We also talked about the gloriously Good News that even though Jesus swam the perfect race for us, we still have the privilege, now reconciled to God, to swim our own race for His glory.

Now the story I’ve just told you has important implications out of the pool that are worth unpacking a bit more thoroughly.

First, your race is not going to look like anyone else’s. I was on the phone with a good friend yesterday, and she spoke about what her family had been up to, how they’d had a couple of busy weekends and she’d had a couple of busy days. She said she knew she needed to slow down and rest, because this pace was just too quick for her. “You probably think that sounds silly with all you have going on,” she commented. “That I need to slow down and rest and this is all I’ve been doing.”

But I was quick to reply: “The Lord knows our frame. He knows what we can handle. And we aren’t all supposed to run at the same pace.” There are seasons when your life feels like it’s moving forward at a crawl. But there are things for you to learn there. There is rest for you to prepare for other seasons of the journey. There is food for your soul in that stillness if you are willing to receive it.

There are other times when the pace changes. When you have children, it automatically begins to feel like the pace of your life has changed. Sitting at home with a newborn instead of being in a fast-paced work environment, you might feel like it has slowed down. Rushing two or three older children to and from school and to extra curricular activities, you might feel like children speed the pace up.

But how do we know what the right pace is for our life?

We live by the Spirit. 

There is another coach for us — intimately acquainted with all of our ways. In John 16, Jesus tells His disciples about the Holy Spirit.

But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.

Jesus went on to say:

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.

So Jesus promised, after He swam the perfect race and returned to the Father, that He’d send a Helper to give us a clear understanding of truth, to help us swim our own race.

Our invitation to follow Christ is an invitation to walk with this Spirit. Through prayer, in worship, and in quietly listening to that still small voice revealing Truth to us, we can gently yield our lives to the leading of God. He can set the pace for us. He can show us how to walk through any and every season of the soul. Our story will not look like anyone else’s. Our pace will not be the same as anyone else’s.

We have a unique race to run that is precious to the Father. 

Sometimes the race is hard. Sometimes its hard to understand why very, very hard things happen. But do you remember our discussion from Day 2? We find the perfect peace for our race by keeping our minds firmly fixed on the God who can bless us with perfect peace if we TRUST Him.

If our minds are firmly fixed on God and our hearts are yielding to the Spirit, we will still experience hardship, but we will overcome.

And with God breathing life into us, the story of our race will be nothing short of glorious.

I’ll leave you with these thoughts from Paul, when He discussed this walk with the Spirit in his letter to the Galatians. {This is the Message version of Gal. 5:25-26}

Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.

Find your pace at the heart of God, friends.