What Do You Do With This Thing Called Balance?

by Andy Wood on April 23, 2014

in Ability, Allocating Your Resources, Five LV Laws, Insight, Life Currency, Love, LV Cycle, Principle of Freedom

Balance

You can get yourself in serious trouble for using the “B” word in some places.  Easy girls, I don’t mean that one.  I’m talking about balance.

I know several people, in ministry of all places, that come out with guns blazing when people start talking about the search for life balance or balancing the demands of ministry vs. family and all that.  “It’s compromise!” they declare.  “You give all you’ve got to everything that’s important,” or something like that.

I know some other people who sincerely are trying to keep all the plates spinning.  They’ve given up on excellence (sadly) – they’re just looking for survival at work, avoiding bankruptcy, and keeping their kids out of Juvenile Detention.  “Balance” for them would be to somehow crawl out of those holes and get back to ground level.

Soon after I wrote that last post on diligence in leadership, I was reading some assignments for a class I teach, the subject of which was life balance.  About 90% of them lamented something to the effect of “I stink at this!”  Some of what I read broke my heart.  Most of these people are mid-life, mid-career professionals who are in – or are headed for – ministry.  They have kids, parents, congregations, a full-time masters-level school load, and usually a full-time job to go with it.  And here, on Easter week, for crying out loud, we were asking them to write about balance.

All that has my wheels turning and my mental oven preheating.  When something’s still in the oven I like to advertise it, so consider yourself warned.  What follows is half-baked and still in the oven.  But if you’re struggling to find some balance to your life and its multiple demands or feeling guilty because you just can’t seem to keep all the plates spinning, then call a time out.

Stop.

Put these ideas in your oven and let ‘em bake for a while and tell me what comes up.

1.  Balance doesn’t mean an either-or proposition.

It’s not a zero-sum game where all the moving parts have to add up to 100%.  There really can be strategic overlap in all this.  Learn from lunch, for crying out loud.  Eating a “balanced diet” doesn’t mean only getting protein at breakfast and carbs at lunch.  Hopefully you’ll find a good blend, while it may vary from meal to meal.  In the same way, there are ways to blend parts of your life so that (surprise!) your kid actually does know what Dad does at work or family time can involve more than just watching TV or playing board games.

2.  Balance will always be a moving target for anybody who cares deeply about anything.

Get over it.  If you think you have life balance all figured out, forever and ever amen, I would challenge you to go back and see what you forgot.  Or check in next week and let me know what adjustments you’ve had to make.  The only people who don’t have to lean in and rebalance from time to time are the ones who just don’t care about some parts of their lives.

3.  Women are the trailblazers and models here.

Sorry guys.  Women are naturally better at keeping all the plates spinning because of the inclusive way their brains work – starting with collaboration.  Women tend to think in terms of “we,” not just “me,” and that greatly multiplies their effect.  Men tend to compartmentalize.  That’s good in some ways, because we can put massive amounts of energy into a single project or issue.  It’s bad in others because we can lose focus and balance much more quickly.  So what do we do with this information?  Learn from the examples of wives, moms, female peers, etc.  and find partners to share the challenges.  And more importantly, heed the warnings of your wife.

4.  This is where diligence comes in, especially for men and women in leadership. 

Diligence means eager mindfulness, faithful, passionate attendance to the things that matter most.  That doesn’t just mean the task at hand – it also means the external and internal(!) environment in which leaders find themselves.  There is no balance without diligence.  But diligence doesn’t have to mean drudgery and certainly doesn’t have to be driven by fear of failure.  Just attend to the tasks and relationships you say you care most about.

5.  There is more than one way to measure balance. 

Don’t ask a pastor on Easter Sunday or during Holy Week about balance!  God has specifically prescribed time frames in scripture – a 24-hour day (that starts with evening, not morning by the way), a seven-day week, a lunar monthly schedule, four seasons, and a calendar year.  What I may lack in balance during the working schedule of my week may be made up for on the weekend.  God created and prescribed days of rest, days of celebration and festival, days of family time.

6.  Balance is never 50/50.

Back to lunch (am I hungry or what?)… You don’t mix 8 ounces of steak with 8 ounces of salt and call it balance.  If you work six days a week (whatever “work” may look like) and have a true day of “Sabbath rest,” then God says, that’s balance.  There are many areas of life that add beauty, spice, and joy based on the Brylcreem formula – a little dab’ll do ya.

7.  Squeaky wheels should get the grease, but a little planning can keep the wheels from squeaking in the first place.

If your spouse or kids are trying clumsily to get your attention, by all means stop what you are doing and give it to them.  If something is falling through the cracks at work, seal the cracks.  But here’s a thought – maybe it really would be helpful to grab one of those seasons the Lord prescribed – weekly maybe? – and think through your roles and goals.  A plan poorly executed will be better than no plan at all.

 

Oh well, gotta go… Some of my own squeaky wheels are hollering for some attention.  But I’d sure love to know your thoughts.  Stay encouraged, friends.  The very idea that you care deeply means that life and the devil will push back.  Just remember, however you keep score, your clock hasn’t counted down to zero just yet. You still have time make some changes.

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