A buddy and I reminisced about our childhood the other day, and we talked about things we learned as children that don’t make any sense. We covered funny Christian myths, old wives’ tales, and eventually discussed Aesop’s fables.
If you don’t know who Aesop is, he was a slave in Greece, most likely from Ethiopia, who wrote a series of stories all with morals behind them. Some of the famous ones might be: the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, the Lion and the Mouse, and, most famously, the Tortoise and the Hare.
In this Tortoise and the Hare story, a Hare, famous for being fast, brags to his friends that he can’t be beaten in speed, and a Tortoise accepts his challenge for a race. The race starts, the Hare sprints miles ahead, takes a nap because he feels secure, and wakes up right as the Tortoise steps across the finish line.
Now the moral of this story is a saying that many of us have heard before: “Slow and steady wins the race.” However, if you think about it, that’s really got nothing to do with the story, and honestly, it’s a horrible adage by which to live one’s life.
Yes, haste can make waste (that’s actually in Proverbs), but in this fable, the slowness of the Tortoise didn’t really win it for him. It was the stupidity (and arrogance) of the Hare. In life, yes, slow and steady might be great. But — correct me if I’m wrong — wouldn’t fast and steady be even better?
In fact, it’s this kind of thinking that I think permeates much of the western world and maybe even the church: “Take it slow.” “Go at your own pace.” Maybe even “be still and wait on the Lord.”
Yes, patience is important, a fruit of the Spirit and something to be nurtured and valued. However, patience is not laziness. This culture of “slow and steady” needs to remember that we live in a world that moves fast, and telling ourselves that it’s OK to “go at our own pace” might just mean we’re encouraging ourselves to stay the same, not grow, and stay in our comfort zone.
Rest and balance are important (I actually wrote about that here), but as it says in Ephesians, we need to look carefully then how we walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil (5:15-16).
I think we should start celebrating those around us who are moving fast, forging ahead, and who do it with steady humility (which, yes, is a bit of a miracle in and of itself). We should hold up as examples those men or women who do have the ambition to keep expanding the church or continually grow in their faith, those who are content with their lot but never satisfied. (Yes, I’m aware that’s subjective; I’m trying to make a point.)
So the moral of the story is: Be fast, be focused. That’s what will help you win a race or two.
What about you? What are some other sayings you’ve heard that make no sense?