I often despair at how utterly bad I am at balancing my life. Looking at how my days run, there really isn’t a balance between time with Jesus, housework, snuggle time and real uninterrupted conversations with Ryan, playing with and teaching the boys, school work (correcting, lesson planning, responding to parents, etc), exercise (ha!), spending time with friends and family, and that ever-elusive sleep. Then I look at the absence of other important things like community service, devotionals, reading (sigh), date nights and a hundred other things I think would make me a more well-rounded—and maybe even worthwhile—person if I could just squeeze them in, and I feel like my life is actually spinning out of control rather than balancing at all.
In her amazingly insightful book, Looking for God, Nancy Ortberg explores the pressure to find balance in our Christian lives. She says she’s heard people herald the bliss of balance and even tout that it pleases God. But after attending a Christian conference on balance and trying vainly to fit her life into the conference’s proposed pie chart, she concludes that balance “didn’t work. It wasn’t theologically correct. And, it wasn’t all that much fun.”
I’m so relieved to hear her say that! And I would like to add to her list that I just don’t think we’re designed for it. I’ve watched Sawyer play with his Mr. Potato Head for literally hours. He takes the face pieces out, puts them in, laughs, repeats, giving absolutely no thought for anything else. That’s not balance; that’s focus. I’m constantly amazed at my boys’ ability to truly focus—to give their entire attention to the object in their hands. What would I gain if I could do the same? My greatest moments of peace come in those times when I give someone or something my undivided attention, so why don’t I seek those moments instead of trying to cram everything in at once?
Jesus did not live a balanced life. He went into the desert for 40 days to fast, then left his whole life behind him and devoted himself to nothing but ministry and people for three years. He challenged his followers that “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). When one disciple asked if he could bury his father first, Jesus replied, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:22). That’s not balance; that’s sold-out conviction and focus.
So how does that transfer to my life now? Do I need to leave everything behind and become a missionary? Or should I at least give up housework to pray more often? J I’m not actually sure. But I’m starting to think having a focused, committed life begins with appreciating that life has its seasons. Right now I’m in a season in which I really can be satisfied with a quick pick up of the house instead of a deep cleaning, especially if it means I truly focused on trying to understand one of Liam’s many epiphanies. Right now I’m in a season when much of my quiet time with Jesus consists of conversations throughout the day instead of journaling in a secluded place. And right now I’m in a season where date nights are too rare, but I really enjoy those conversations with Ryan when the boys are distracted in their playroom and it’s quiet in the kitchen for a few moments. Someday, journaling, reading, date nights, and plenty of sleep (I hope) will be more prominent in my life. Someday my house may be cleaner because I have been able to give it time. But that’s going to be during another season—a season that will be wonderful and full of struggle just like this one. But I’m going to strive not to long for that season yet. Instead I want to focus on the beautiful, busy, unbalanced season I’m in right now.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to uproot,
A time to kill and a time to heal,
A time to tear down and a time to build,
A time to weep and a time to laugh,
A time to mourn and a time to dance,
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
A time to embrace and a time to refrain,
A time to search and a time to give up,
A time to keep and a time to throw away,
A time to tear and a time to mend,
A time to be silent and a time to speak,
A time to love and a time to hate,
A time for war and a time for peace” (Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8).