Many of us look at our hectic lives and we seek some illusory ideal called balance. By balance we have a picture of a life where everything has its place and time. Work never intrudes on rest. Projects never squeeze out family. Family never barges in on personal time. It is like the scales of justice, but with 4 or 5 arms, all perfectly weighted. We figure, when we get to this point, each area of life will be productive and we will have peace.
At 51 years of age, almost 30 years in ministry, an awesome wife, 4 grown sons and an awesome daughter-in-law, owning a home and 5 vehicles, with health challenges, I know that this kind of balance is an unachievable goal. But more than that, I think it is undesirable.
This vision of balance keeps us from going all-out, or all-in, in any area of life.
This vision of balance will keep us from achieving anything substantive. Here’s an example, as a parent: There were times when my sons needed me more than others. Times when they’ve needed to make big decisions, or have faced unique challenges. It wouldn’t have helped them if after my 45 minutes of allotted family time, I would have said… “sorry Dude! Father-time is up and now it’s Pastor-time, or Husband-time, or Play-time.” The same can be said in my ministry. There are times it has taken focused energy and inordinate amounts of time to get big things done.
This “balance-scale” image of balance will keep us frustrated. Life happens. We are not in control. And in seeking this kind of balance we are trying to control life. That just leads to frustration.
A new vision of balance is needed. I would propose the vision of a rodeo cowboy in the Bull Riding event. Now that is balance! As he sits in the chute, he wraps the rope around his hand and pounds his fingers down around it. He plants his heels into the shoulders of the 2,000 pound monster that is about to bolt out of the gate.
As soon as that bull moves out, he anticipates the way the animal is going to move. He moves one way, then another. He leans back, forward, left, right. He adjusts his feet with every kick of the bull, first the shoulders, then the haunches, back and forth and back and forth. He swings his free arm left, right, forward, backward. It is 8 seconds of terror! If he is successful, he leaps off the bull at the end of the run, takes off his hat and bows to the crowd. That is how balance in life really works.
Life is an unpredictable bull. We never know what’s coming. There are times we have to all in, with our kids (move to the left). We have times to give 12 hr days to work (to the right). We are compelled to serve in our church (leaning forward). And there are times when our spouses need our full and undivided attention (leaning back). Success comes when we read the opportunities and the needs around us and shift our time, energies, talents and care in the direction that keeps us on the back of the bull.
The danger of imbalance comes, not when things are differently weighted, but when we’re not aware of the movements around us and we don’t shift the way we need to. Then life quickly falls apart and we fall off the bull. How can we do this? It’s nice to have help.
Early in my marriage, I had to learn this. And with my wife’s help, I have stayed up – not always very artfully – but I’m still here. We were married just a couple of years and we had our first son. I was a solo pastor in a small-town church. I was learning the arts of husbandry, parenting and pastoring. But pastoring seemed to demand more and more of my attention. I was leaning into it with all I had. And it was too easy for me not to be aware of what was happening in other parts of my life. Kris, my wife, knew of this tendency and so did I. So she agreed to help me. She would lovingly let me know when she or my son needed me. She would occasionally call my secretary and put a date on my calendar. Or, she would say, “your boy needs his Dad this week.”
The bull shifted and so did my priorities. I would make the adjustments I needed to. These adjustments helped me take advantage of the opportunities that were around me.
My encouragements for achieving balance are:
1. Get a better understanding of balance, you’ll accomplish more.
2. Be aware that there are times when you’re needed more in one area of life than another. If you miss the shift, you’ll miss the opportunity.
3. Surround yourself with a few trusted confidants that you will listen to, who can alert you to the need to shift your posture.
4. Listen most to the Spirit of God, who knows what’s really coming. And if you need to shift, permanently or temporarily, do it! His desire is to see you have a successful ride.