The Speed Limit of the Soul

“Ma’am, do you know how fast you were going?”

Thankfully, I haven’t heard that phrase in a long time.  No matter the answer, the result isn’t usually positive.  Answering “yes, officer, I was speeding” means you were deliberately exceeding the limit.  Answering, “no, officer, I’m not sure” means you weren’t paying close enough attention while driving.  There’s just no good response to that question.

As I mentioned before, I’m currently leading an online Bible study using Breathe by Priscilla Shirer.  I am still loving it and learning so much. 

This week, the following jumped off the page at me:

You and I should appropriately deny our flesh when we feel ourselves beginning to spin out of control.  But rather than do so out of competitiveness, fear, or guilt, our decisions should be based on what one author [Richard A. Swenson] beautifully describes as “the speed limit of your soul.”  Listen for the rhythms of God’s grace and live according to its cadence – easy, light, full of mercy.  (emphasis mine)

The speed limit of your soul.  I have been mulling that over for the past couple of weeks, and the more I think about it, the more I love it.  I even have the phrase “don’t exceed the speed limit of your soul” as the background on my phone.

So what is the speed limit of your soul?  I believe it’s the pace of life at which you feel most at peace – not necessarily outward but inward – and in step with the Lord.  Here are some of the lessons God is teaching me:

Speed limits are personal.

If my mother were a highway, she’d be an interstate, or maybe the Autobahn.  She’s always going and going.  Her calendar is perpetually full, and she genuinely likes it that way.  She finds fulfillment in lots of activity.

I, on the other hand, am more of a quiet country lane.  My idea of a perfect week would be one with nothing on my calendar at all.  I am happiest with one or two meaningful responsibilities.  I find fulfillment in writing, teaching, and mulling over ideas (like “the speed limit of your soul”) until they coalesce into a blog post like this one.

What’s your “sweet spot” busyness-wise?  If you could start with a blank calendar and only include the activities God has placed in your heart, what would it look like?

Speed limits are situational.

At least once a month, I drive to Atlanta and back.  Traveling down I-75 the traffic volume builds and builds.  Then one of two things happen: either the speed slows to a crawl or it reaches a fever pitch.  No matter which one occurs, the posted speed limit is pretty much immaterial.  Safety requires adjusting my speed to match that of the other cars.

Similarly, though I believe we all have an ideal speed limit set within us, situations often require us to either move more slowly or more quickly than we would otherwise choose.  Having a newborn at home will necessitate slowing down lots of outside activities.  Preparing for Thanksgiving and Christmas may require speeding up the rhythm of life to keep up with extra demands.

Still, though, the goal – I believe – is to return to that place of equilibrium.

Are you in a faster-than-normal or slower-than-normal season?  How can you return to your set point after this time has passed?

Speed limits are like other boundaries put in place by the Lord – designed to increase our freedom.

Last week, I wrote about how boundaries are a gift.  The same logic applies here.  God has designed me to operate at maximum effectiveness at a certain speed.  When I go too fast for too long, stress and anxiety show up.  When I go too slow for too long, lethargy and laziness ensue.  I experience the greatest freedom in being who He has called me to be when I am following along at the speed He has set for that season of my life.

And by the way, my family has an optimum speed, too.  Road rage isn’t just for highways in California. 

So, if you were a highway, what kind would you be?  Have you experienced any fender-benders from either going too fast or too slow?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.