Every year my church conducts a "Spiritual Health" survey. My husband is in charge of creating the survey and compiling the data so I get an up close & personal look at the results. This past year, one trend in particular caught me by surprise.
The survey consisted of eight statements. For each of the statements we were asked to circle a number (from 1-10, with 10 being the best) that most accurately described ourselves. One of the statements went something like this: "I pay attention to my life and seek balance.” The average? An 8.4. It was the highest average for any of the statements on the survey.
It seems like for years I have been encouraging women to seek balance in their lives. I've even taken it a step further, promising that with balance comes a richer, more fulfilling and satisfying life. But, rather than celebrating this 8.4 average, I was perplexed. Because some of the lowest averages from the entire survey came from these three statements:
I spend intentional, set aside time with God each week.
I'm involved with a small group.
I spend time with a mentor.
I guess I find it hard to believe that we are actually "balanced" in life if we aren't spending regular time with God, not to mention, connecting with others in some type of small group community, and/or allowing someone to speak into our life.
I think if we were being really honest, we'd admit that we've been “balancing" our lives with Netflix, food, shopping, spa days, mindless scrolling, travel, sleep, etc. All good things on the surface, often times aiding our balance. But when we look to these things primarily for our "balance,” I think what we're actually doing is escaping and/or numbing.
We find ourselves see-sawing from one side of the balance scale to the other. Work, then rest, deprive, then indulge, engage, then numb. Its a steady rhythm of temporary reprieves from life. Rarely do we find ourselves in the middle; that place of, well, balance, where we remain awake and present to all that’s going on around us and the scales in our life teeter ever-so-slightly in a somewhat happy little rhythm of equilibrium. I wonder what it would look to live our lives here?
Jesus modeled a balanced life quite well. What I find fascinating is that the demands on Jesus were extraordinary. His time was limited, His life was being threatened, and people grabbed at Him wherever He went. Yet still, amidst all that weighed on His shoulders, He lived balanced.
How did He do it?
Read with me:
"Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." Luke 5:15-16 (emphasis mine).
I spent the majority of 2016 being pregnant and I remember around my 6 month check-up the doctor asking me if I had experienced any episodes of falling over. I hadn’t, but the question seemed funny and so I asked for clarification. She told me that almost a third of women fall during pregnancy. It turns out, as your belly grows your center of gravity shifts and you become “front-heavy,” causing you to easily lose your balance. And what typically prevents us from falling over if we find ourselves off-balanced, is our core strength, which just so happens to be limited and stretched out while we are pregnant. She went on to tell me that our core strength is a lot more than just our abs. In fact, it goes far beyond our abs, including almost every area of our body except our arms and legs. Our core strength is what balances us. And it’s used in almost every movement of the human body.
Jesus lived a balanced life because he had an incredibly strong "Core Strength." (AKA: His connection to God). And He used it in every move He made. We read that Jesus withdrew often to lonely places and prayed, which is how He built up that Core Strength, so that if the circumstances of life were ever off-balanced, or chaotic, or full, His strong Core Strength would be there to stabilize Him back to center. This enabled Jesus to discern when God was leading Him to a time of rest and when God was leading Him to press on, when God was leading Him to feast with friends and when God was leading him to feed the 5,000.
I guess that's the secret when we look to God for balance; we can be sure that we are going to be led to exactly what we need, exactly when we need it.
I was talking to a friend of mine the other day and I think she modeled "balance" so well. A difficult situation arose within her family and the scales of life felt as if they were tipping. Instead of stuffing it down, pretending everything was ok, going out for drinks after work, or sinking into a pint of ice cream at home, she sought God first. In her time with God she felt a nudging to confront her feelings rather than avoid them and to practice what she had been learning with Him in the quiet; how to allow time and space for her internal life. So, she took a sick day, invited God to be with her throughout the day and processed all that was going on in the family crisis. Rather than escaping the moment, she leaned into the moment. She journaled, she walked, she slept, she prayed, she talked with friends. When life felt off-balanced, she accessed her Core Strength and allowed Him to level the scales.
Often times we come up with our own prescriptions for balance. Sometimes they help and sometimes they don’t. Every time God knows what we need to be balanced. It’s a matter of us tapping into that Core Strength and following His lead.
When life feels stressful, heavy, busy, or overwhelming, what one thing do you repeatedly reach for in order to “balance” you?
What practical thing can you do to turn to God next time you feel off-balanced?