Modern cycling computers provide some pretty sophisticated telemetry. You can know where you are, how far you’ve come, how fast you’re going, your cadence, the amount of energy your ride has consumed, and even keep track of your power output. Professional cyclists pump significant wattage through those pedals for extended periods, and refuel by consuming the equivalent of up to forty hamburgers a day. Watch a stage of the Tour de France with someone who is in the know and you might discover that your inner cycling fan is alive and well.
All of these measurements are valuable. But there is one more valuable than the rest, and that is heart rate. All the others measure what you are doing. How fast. How far. Calories used. Watts produced. But your heart rate measures how you are doing. How hard can you still go, and for how long, before coming to the end of yourself.
The analogy is a profound one, for life in the Spirit is lived from the heart. Christians, churches and ministries burn out because they focus on performance, and end up going too hard for too long.
Pace setting from the heart is a discipline. That’s especially true of those with personalities like mine. When I’m a little out of shape and out on my bike on a hot and windy day, keeping myself in a moderate zone on the monitor can be excruciating. At times it means crawling along, to the point that pedestrians stare as they go past. This is especially noticeable when a number of them are heading in the same direction as what you are.
I’m not arguing for some sort of perpetual tortosity (tortoiseness?) here. When your heart is in fine fettle, go long and go hard. But when you’re spent, for whatever reason, recover. Live authentically. Live from the heart. When you’ve been under duress for a period, or when you’re healing up physically or emotionally – life happens – then be wise. Let the hares head into the distance. The Christian life is not a competition. Your only race to run is yours. Run it well. Fact is, we would all be infinitely more productive over the long haul if we focused on health above output.