This is a guest post from Brian Davis
Several years ago, I was seeing a counselor in an effort to work through a bevy of issues in my head, not the least of which was how to “balance my ministry, my home life, and everything else I had going on.” My counselor’s words shocked me:
“The idea of a balance is a myth.”
Well, crap. Almost everything I had heard about being in ministry was that I have to strike a good balance between my work and my family. The point that my counselor was trying to make is that “balancing” everything in your life is virtually impossible, and even when we seem to have everything in balance something inevitably comes along to throw us off kilter.
I think I had heard this somewhere else, so if I’m not giving credit where credit is due, please let me know: think of all the things in your life packed up in neat little boxes. One box is labeled “JOB,” another is “KIDS,” yet another is “MARRIAGE,” and another “HOBBIES.” Now, bear in mind, you only have two hands to carry all four boxes. What do you do? Perhaps you pick the two most important and put one in each hand. Maybe you stack them one on top of another, three in a tower in one hand, the remaining box in another. It’s a precarious position to be in, especially the more boxes you have storing all the stuff in your life. “Your hands are full” certainly rings true in this moment as you struggle to balance all these boxes without dropping them. But what happens when life comes along and hands you a box you didn’t expect…a box labeled “CANCER” or “DIVORCE” or “ALZHEIMER’S“? Or maybe you trip over a small box on the floor that you know has always been there even though you haven’t picked it up in a while. This box is called “ADDICTION” or perhaps “FAILURE” or “SEXUAL ABUSE“. You only have two hands and you can only stack the boxes so high. Eventually, and despite your best efforts to keep things in “balance,” your boxes come falling to the floor. Your life sits in a ruined pile around you all because you thought you could keep everything balanced.
I speak from experience in this area – it was three years ago when my boxes came tumbling down because I thought I could keep it all from falling. I thought I had found a way to balance my life, against the advice of my counselor. So, I’d like to suggest something that I’m sure isn’t going to be popular in a culture of rugged individualism that relies heavily on keeping up the appearance of busyness.
“What if, instead of trying to balance everything, we actually only carried one thing at a time?”
What we were to leave our “JOB” box at work when we leave at 5pm and picked up our “FAMILY” box when we get home? Can you imagine how much more productive you might be at work if your job was the only thing you focused on for 8 hours? Can you imagine how much happier your family would be if you engaged them fully from the time you got home until the time you went back to work? How much easier is it to carry one box with two hands?
This, obviously, requires boundaries. And creating boundaries requires the strength to say a very simple word: “NO.” It also requires something we really don’t care for: Relying on others for help. Community. Sure, we throw the word community out there, especially in Christian/churchy circles, but deep down we don’t want real community in our lives. We want friends, and we even like the idea of being relied upon for help should someone else stumble. “But I don’t need help.” “I can do this by myself. I can balance it all. I can keep it under control.”
Famous last words.
When I dropped my boxes, I had a few choices. I could sit and wallow in the mess, crying about what a failure I was as a man, a worship leader, a husband, a father. Or, I could have worked really, really, really, really, really hard to put the pieces back together and rebuild my tower of boxes and get my life back in balance. Or, I could reach out my hands to those around me and ask them to help me carry it. I chose the third way and I think it was a wise choice. While I took the time to carry my marriage box, I realized I had to put down my ministry career box for a time so I could fully engage in the process of healing a very broken relationship. I also had many people who came alongside me and helped carry my kids box, and still others who would make sure that I wasn’t neglecting my own spiritual and physical health box. The point is: YOU CAN’T DO IT ON YOUR OWN! You need boundaries and you need help in order to stop trying to balance your life.
In the last few weeks, a couple of members of our team have had to make the difficult choice of setting down their “worship team” box in order to devote more time to carrying other more important boxes. And while I feel sad at the thought of not being able to worship with them on stage, I applaud them for making this choice. Better to put one thing down for another than to drop them all. This isn’t only a wise choice; it’s good stewardship of the things with which God has trusted us.
So, what are the things in your life you’re trying to balance? Do you think it might be time to figure out what you can carry and what you need to set down for a while? It is never an easy choice, but these are necessary questions to face if we’re going to live lives that honor God, those closest to us, and those we serve in His Kingdom.