Cultivating Balance


My soul often feels tired.  Not just my body, nor merely my mind, but my soul.  The eternal part of me often feels like it cannot keep up with the demands of the life I am living.  It has taken years to understand this, and even more time to discover the solution to such a predicament.  That solution, I believe, can be encapsulated in the word recalibration.  To recalibrate something is to adapt or adjust it, to change or correct it.  It is a reconfiguration, a reconstruction of sorts.  It means, in short, to fix something that is not working properly.  However, what I’ve had to learn the hard way is that it is not my soul that needs to be fixed, but my life.

The eternal part of me, my soul, has been given over to God.  I have surrendered that part of myself to Him.  In theory, I should have surrendered all of myself and my life to Him when I said yes to Jesus, but it has taken a while for my physical, temporal life to catch onto that truth.  Transformation is a process.  So while my soul “gets it” in terms of what matters and what doesn’t, my physical body and my still-in-the-process-of-being-renewed mind don’t quite “get it.”  Therefore we are at odds with each other.  There is, in other words, a war of sorts going on within me.  Part of me is striving for a restful balance which gives room for what matters most, while the other part of me is always running at a frantic pace, striving to accomplish, quite often, things that don’t really matter all that much, if at all, in the end.

A wise man once told me that balance is a myth.  Striving to make sure that all of my life has equal parts of me: my time, focus, energy and attention, is at best unattainable.  At worst, it is a disaster.  When I have tried to live this way, I end up stretched beyond all reasonable limitations and frazzled to the core of my being.  While everything may get partly done, nothing is done well.  While I may have some sense of accomplishment in having “done it all,” I do not rest easy in knowing that I have done it all well.  Inevitably, something has been compromised, and it is usually the thing that matters most: the love and motivation with which I’ve done it.

In other words, getting my husband and kids fed and clothed and through their checklists each day counts for nothing in the end if I’ve done it without loving gentleness and a desire to serve the greater goal: that they would be drawn to God through my love and service to them.  I shudder to think of the times we have “made it through” another day, but have no precious moments to look back on with adoration.  Instead, we have bitter memories of the rash impatience and frustration we have exhibited toward one another in our rush to hurry up and get nowhere, at least from an eternal perspective.

Cultivating balance, then, is not about spreading ourselves thin enough to accomplish all things, but rather about reassessing our God-given priorities, and slowing down enough to make space for what truly matters.  And not just what, but also how:  with sincere love and dedication, not merely a begrudging sense of duty.

To illustrate, there is a story of a man who set out on a long trek through the jungles of Africa.  He had a team of local tribesmen who traveled with him, helping to carry the heavy loads.  They made great “progress” the first day, marching quickly and getting far in their journey.  This pleased the man who was leading the expedition, and he anticipated a similar pace the next day.  When he rose the next morning, however, he found the tribesmen in quite a different mood than the day before.  They had sat down to rest, and they seemed to be in no hurry to move.  In fact, they refused to move at all that second day.  When inquiring why there had been such a drastic change in their behavior from the first day of their journey, the man was told that the tribesmen had gone to fast the day before, and they were now waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies!  These men knew what they needed to restore life’s balance.

We, too, are on a journey.  It is a long trek.  We are, the Bible says, on a great pilgrimage toward Heaven.  And while we are traveling here, we have responsibilities.  We must, indeed, remain busy and keep moving forward.  But the pace at which we do so can tend to rob us of the real point of our journey, if we are not careful.  It is easy to get so steeped in the work we do that we forget to tend to our souls – that eternal part of us that belongs to God.  And when that gets out of balance, the work begins to unravel and we begin to fall apart.  What we do becomes more important than why we do it.  And pretty soon, what we do becomes a source of irritation rather than a great privilege we’ve been entrusted with. And the fruit of that is not a life that showcases the goodness of God, but a life that disproves His goodness and contradicts the faith we claim to have.

I wonder when you last sat down to rest your soul?  Not with merely a nap or an indulgence that reaches no deeper than your weary body, but with a quiet space in which you can hear and be refreshed by the breath of God?  When was the last time you cultivated some space to sit in the presence of the One Who made you and planned your journey, so that He could remind you of why you are doing the things you do, and help you to let go of the things you don’t need to be doing?

I believe we will always crave balance in some form, and I don’t think that’s a wrong desire.  But I do think we have attempted to go about it in many of the wrong ways, and have yet to truly discover something that “works.”  In order for balance to come to our lives in any lasting and penetrating way, we must cultivate a regular space to rest our souls and remember that it is better to do a few small things with great love, than to do many things – even big things, without love.

May God bless you today to pause and sit still long enough to know you need to do it more often!  And may the peace you find in that stillness create in you a desperate hunger to cultivate much more space in your life for that which matters the most.

“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you.  Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.'”  Matthew 11:28-29 (New Living Translation)

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