The “B” word is not a bad word, but it is a challenging word. No, I’m not talking about the word for a female dog nor about the word for an illegitimately-born person. I’m talking about the word “balance”. It’s what most of us attempt to do in our lives but usually end up leaning toward one side or the other. Here are some examples:
Physical – eating a healthy and balanced diet (extremes: total health food nuts and junk food junkies; anorexics and binge eaters); balancing the amounts of exercise, rest, and sleep in a day (extremes: exercise fanatics and couch potatoes)
Social – balancing time invested in relationships with family, friends, workmates, and neighbors (extremes: obsessed jealous stalkers/creepers and unattached aloof islands/icebergs)
Environmental – balancing cleanliness (extremes: OCD neat freaks and total slobs); balancing material possessions (extremes: hording pack rats and spartan minimalists); balancing personal budgets (extremes: shopaholic squanderers and stingy misers); balancing how much time is spent using technology (screen freaks spending hours on TV, video games, Netflix, Facebook or something else vs. unconnected and head-in-the-sand dinosaurs who refuse to use any technology)
Vocational – balancing time spent between work and recreation/leisure (extremes: workaholics and lazy bums)
We all could add to these lists but I want to move on to talking about balance in our spiritual lives. Two of the extremes we have observed are legalists who make it about keeping every last rule/law (focusing on the rules, ignoring the relationship), trying to earn their way to heaven, and condemning everyone around them; and prodigals who think that they can freely do whatever they want whenever they want without consequences (focusing on freedom while ignoring the need the relationship has for respect/obedience), and by their actions drag other people onto the road to destruction with them. Both extremes lose out on experiencing God’s grace and mercy for themselves and with others. An important part of Jesus’ message is also that we not be quick to pass judgment on others (“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”), so let’s not be pointing fingers at others. We don’t always have all of the facts about a person’s life circumstances and everything is not just black and white. Something that one might consider to be “gospel truth” may instead just be a cultural directive (like “don’t dance, don’t watch movies, don’t drink, and don’t smoke”). Instead we need to look in the mirror and ask God to help us see the areas we need to be finding the balance with Him as our focus, and avoiding either extreme.
As followers of Christ, we eventually realize that balance in any area of our lives is only possible when we fix our eyes on Jesus and trust the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us. Jesus said, “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). We often try to create our own “full life” and find ourselves over-committed, under- appreciated, fatigued, frustrated and out of balance. We need to find the “full life” and balance that only Christ can give. Time spent with Him every day in listening to Him and talking to Him is as important to our spiritual well-being as breathing, sleeping and eating are to our physical well-being.
Even in times of struggle, our lives will continue to be balanced when our focus remains on Him. It doesn’t mean that we won’t have to put effort into keeping balanced. We are humans who have a tendency to go back to what we are used to doing (habits and ingrained mindsets) and to trying to do it independently without the help of God and others. Over time, we will learn that our first instinct should be to call upon God for His help and then take what He offers us. It takes practice but it is time well spent toward leading a healthy and balanced life.
Finally, a quote that I wanted to share because it does allude to part of the balancing act in the Christian life:
Christianity calls us to stand in the tragic gap. By the tragic gap I mean the gap between the hard realities around us and what we know is possible — not because we wish it were so, but because we’ve seen it with our own eyes. For example, we see greed all around us, but we’ve also seen generosity. We hear a doctrine of radical individualism that says, “Everyone for him- or herself,” but we also know that people can come together in community and (live for a) common cause. As you stand in the gap between reality and possibility, the temptation is to jump onto one side or the other. If you jump onto the side of too much hard reality, you can get stuck in corrosive cynicism… If you jump onto the side of too much possibility, you can get caught up in irrelevant idealism. These two extremes sound very different, but they have the same impact on us: both take us out of the gap — and the gap is where all the action is. I call it “tragic” because it’s a gap that will never close, an inevitable flaw in the human condition. No one who has stood for high values — love, truth, justice — has died being able to declare victory, once and for all. If we embrace values like those, we need to find ways to stand in the gap for the long haul, and be prepared to die without having achieved our goals. Parker J. Palmer, The Tragic Gap