By Pastor Larry
Everyone is talking about balance these days. It's almost like it has become an obsession: if we can only find the right combination of apps and time management ideas we will finally achieve the perfectly balanced life. Pastoral Ministry in particular has come under the lens of scrutiny. Apparently, those of us who are called to minister are particularly unbalanced individuals. At least that is the impression I came away with after a recent gathering of church leaders. The heated questions and advice reminded me of the last time I sat in on a doctrinal examination. An unbalanced life appears to be the newest heresy.
After reading extensively on this topic and visiting many websites purporting to have the right tools and advice, I can't help but think of a children's story. Do you remember the story of The Emperor's New Clothes? The Emperor was convinced by a fraud that he was wearing a new set of clothes when in reality he was naked. It took a small child to finally blurt out the truth – the Emperor wasn't wearing anything at all!
Maybe we need a small child to bring some sanity to our driving desire for balance. Perhaps if a small child blurted out the truth – there is no such thing as balance – we would stop this senseless pursuit.
Stop and think about this with me for just a minute. What is balance anyway? Is it not the Olympic gymnast perfectly balanced on a balance beam? Is it not the waiter balancing a tray of fragile glasses filled to the brim while skillfully maneuvering through a crowded room? Is it not the massive rock delicately balanced on a much smaller rock defying gravity? Is it not the stunt artist walking on a tight rope over Niagara Falls? Now, what do all of those images have in common? How about things like: temporary, fragile, elusive, and easily lost. All it takes is one slip, one moment of distraction, one small earth tremor and our balance is lost and the result may be disastrous.
I know, I know; that is not what we mean when we use the word balance, right? We use the word balance to describe our pursuit of a full life. Things like work, family, recreation, faith and rest need to be "balanced" so we can get it all done and not feel guilty about what we haven't done. There is just one small problem with this modified definition and pursuit: it doesn't work. It is just as fragile as all the other examples I provided. All it takes is one sick child, one NSF notice, one traffic jam or one conversation that begins with: "We need to talk" and our balance is lost.
Interestingly, the Bible makes virtually no mention of the concept of balance. But it does talk a lot about seasons and rhythm. There are seasons in our lives where we will never be balanced....but we will be wildly happy. There are also seasons wherein all we should be doing is resting and refilling the reservoir and if we strive for balance in those seasons we will actually not rest and refill. Secondly, what we seem to have lost sight of as a culture is a rhythm of life that allows us to do more than feel like we are endlessly sprinting. Perhaps we need to embrace rhythm and seasons as our guiding metaphors and deliberately avoid balance.
Now if we can only find a small child who will tell us the truth we might just start believing that balance is goofy.