“What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes,” – James 4:14
Verses like this are often used in a carpe diem (“seize the day”) fashion; life is short, so we must do all we can while we can. It’s a part of “living life to the fullest.” While I find attractive aspects about this emphasis on life’s time limit, I often feel God sending a different message.
Seizing the day often means doing a lot in a short amount of time. People become driven to get a college degree, get a job, get married, have kids, get a house, etc., etc. What I find problematic, though, is the general lack of contentment and joy within the “movers and shakers” of society.
It’s like we make a list of a bunch of different things we want to do in our lifetime and simply devote every day to fulfilling that list. The faster you go, the faster you become ahead of schedule. Once your list is entirely crossed off then (and only then) you are able to relax and enjoy your life. Some call this stage “retirement.” I’m not against writing a list of the things you’d like to do before you die (the “bucket list”), but I’m not sure about having to do all those things as soon as I can and then retire.
A little over a week ago, I went for a 3 mile run. It had been a while since I last ran, so I knew I was going to hurt afterward. But what I didn’t consider was how fast I should have run. I thought I could keep the same pace that I had a couple months ago, but I was feeling winded after a few blocks. I was running too fast.
“Therefore… let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” (Heb. 12:1). I’m sure we’ve all heard this message before, but for some reason, it’s been really resonating this weekend. This entire summer I’ve been seeing my friends either get engaged or get married. I’m not normally susceptible to peer pressure, but sometimes it’s difficult not to see the special friendships taking a life-changing turn without longing, even just a little, in my own heart for what they have.
Marriage is a stage of life I believe I will live one day. But I have a tendency of treating God like an office assistant: Did you get me that job on time? How about that apartment? Don’t forget the deadline for my marriage… God isn’t supposed to meet our deadlines; we’re supposed to wait on Him.
Pace is key to running. My body found out the hard way a couple weeks ago. But my heart, mind, and soul don’t have to find out the same way. “With endurance” isn’t just referring to determination and spiritual stamina; it’s also referring to setting a pace with God, growing with Him as He allows us to grow. Some seem to move through life faster than others, but when God’s the gardener, we’re all growing at the pace we need.
If our lives are but mists that vanish quickly, as James says, then maybe we should slow ourselves a little. All my life I’ve been a slow eater, a slow reader, and a slow writer. It hasn’t been because I’m unable to go fast; it’s because I never wanted to. I’ve wanted to savor what I eat, read, and write. In the same way, I think God wants us to savor our mist-long lives.