By Anthony Casperson
The action just keeps going. The characters come under attack. They run to a car. A gunfight ensues, weaving in and out of high-speed traffic. Directing the vehicle toward a convenient ramp, the driver launches it high into the air. They splash into the nearby river and start swimming. A helicopter belonging to the antagonists opens fire on the characters, peppering the water’s surface. But then the chopper explodes, a direct hit from a missile fired from an allied jet. Skimming on the water, a speedboat pulls up beside the protagonists. They climb aboard. The sound of other watercraft nears, as the chase continues.
By this point and time in the story, you probably look up from the book or away from the screen and are breathless. You need a break. There’s too much going on in the story. Too much action. Likely, you’re not bored, but your mind needs something else. Even if just for a minute.
The story being told desires to be exciting, filling it with action, but has forgotten one important aspect. For action to be at its most effective in a storytelling experience, there have to be moments of respite for the characters. They need a break because the audience needs a break.
Non-stop action removes the effectiveness of the action’s purpose. (And leaves the story feeling implausible, but that’s not my point here.)
In storytelling, this is called pacing. The author attempts to keep a balance between all aspects of the story. There is action, but there’s also dialogue, introspection, and description of the setting. Too much of any one particular part causes the audience to break out of the story.
Each part is just as important as the others, even if it’s the description of an entire meal. That momentary break might just mean the difference between leaving the audience breathless and allowing them a much-needed break.
Some among us might understand the concept of pacing when it comes to a story, but I wonder how many of us practice pacing in our own lives. How many of us have been keeping a practice of rest in our routine?
Now, I’m sure there are some among us who are looking at me funny right now. We’re still in the middle of a pandemic. Some people have been waiting to go back to work. Some have even been given a little more time because they don’t have to commute. There are many who have more time than they’ve ever had. How can I be suggesting we aren’t getting enough rest?
Truthfully, time doesn’t equal rest.
How many of us have looked at this spare time and thought about that one project that we’ve been meaning to get to once we finally have time? Who among us has thought more about all the things we can do at this moment in our lives than how this time could be used to rest and recharge our metaphorical batteries?
I know that, even before the beginning of 2020, I had planned on taking this summer to start writing a novel. (Hence the reason why I’ve had pacing on the brain.) But even with the couple of months extra that I had for the summer break, I considered what else I could do rather than how I could use the time to recharge and relax in between writing sessions.
And I worry, as we think about getting back to various businesses reopening, that there will be an expectation for us to push ourselves. There’ll be a desire to return to “normal” so much that we end up working non-stop, leaving behind even the small amounts of rest that we’ve been getting.
And something will cause us to force the non-stop action. Fatigue, exhaustion, depression, anxiety, family issues, emotional problems, bodily pain. All sorts of things can force us to take the break that we were designed to need.
God gave us an example of rest that we should follow. He created rest as a blessing for us. God’s pacing for our lives. It’s something we need to receive and enjoy.
I admit that I haven’t done a good job of resting recently. There’s an internal pressure to get some work done. But having been reminded of God’s pacing, I have taken a moment to breathe. And it aids us to move forward with greater energy reserves.
As this time remains up in the air for many, let’s not forget about pacing our lives with a break from the action. That way, when action is needed, its purpose will be at its most effective.