Balance comes not from ourselves, but from remaining in contact with that which sustains us.
I recently became acutely aware of the importance of balance—physical, emotional and mental balance. What follows describes my “Aha!” moment: A few months ago, myself and members of my church family did something we don’t normally do. We scaled ladderrs and spent a Saturday on the expansive roof of our church, stripping off 40-year-old roofing consisting of16 tons of red gravel, to prepare the building for a new roof. The labor was tough. We used muscles we don’t normally use. All of us had aches and pains the next morning.
However, while we were on the roof, everyone seemed to adjust amazingly well to these heretofore unfamiliar tasks. By noon we looked like a seasoned crew. There was just one task that some of us seemed to never really get used to doing. It was when we had to descend the ladder from the roof. Many of us moved cautiously, carefully, tentatively, and tried very hard to keep our balance.
Balance. With it, all systems seem to sustain one another. Without it, strain sets in and awkward falls happen. When we see someone trying to descend a ladder, we are acutely aware of the need for balance. But most of the time, I believe, we are out of balance. We overemphasize some things, and underemphasize others, and become very out of balance. What’s worse is that much of this “out-of-balance-ness” is actually encouraged and applauded by others. What employer wants to slow down a person who voluntarily overworks himself or herself? Underwork and underachievement also have very undesireable consequences. What pastor wants the most dedicated, most faithful and most talented church member to stop building the kingdom and go fishing instead? And, on the other hand, watch what happens when one person starts to step up their activity for the church while among people who have settled long ago into a more apathetic pattern. When this occurs you might witness an “apple cart upset,” as the ones used to doing minimal service become resentful and distant toward those who are really enthusiastic.
The world at large recognizes the need for balance. But what does the world say to people who are out of balance? Usually the exhortation is “Get balance in your life!” Isn’t that a funny thing to say—especially to the already overextended? In reality, doesn’t such messages just load on one more thing onto the already overcommitted? Offer such a “remedy” to the the already over-extended person and watch them become crest-fallen. Simply exhorting someone to “get it together” seldom works and often leaves them feeling much worse and with less motivation to change than before.
But balance is a very Biblical idea. In Genesis we learn that God created the world in six days, and on the seventh day He rested. Once the world was created, God rested. One could observe in the Genesis narrative that the first experience the newly completed world witnessed was God at rest. This rhytym of life—working after resting, seasons of rest and seasons of work, Sabbath-keeping, setting aside a day to the Lord—is woven throughout the Bible.
Jesus lived this way. Mark 1:35-39 tells us: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went to a solitary place, where He prayed.” After Jesus was baptized by John, and as He was preparing for His ministry, the Holy Spirit led him out into the dessert. Jesus’ life demonstrarted a beautiful balance of rest, work, renewal and pouring out of His life in service. Not only did Jesus live this concept of balance, He taught this rythm of life to His disciples.
One could conclude that the church itself was birthed after a period of rest, waiting upon the Lord. Before Pentecost, the disciples were told to wait for the Comforter - the Holy Spirit. When God sent the Holy Spirit, the “church” was released to share the Good News of Christ’s resurrection and ongoing ministry.
Unfortunately, instead of stealing away to pray or renew oursleves, we allow the demands of life to rob us of needed balance. One writer describes how he had never encountered a revolving door before. When he did, he became anxious about getting through the opening, so he would take faster steps and push harder, thinking that would help him get out. It had just the opposite affect, actually speeding up the door making it harder to exit. It got to the point that the door was going so fast the back of the door was actually hitting him from behind, moving him yet faster and faster. Of course, without realizing it, he was actually the cause of the ‘round and ‘round momentum. Finally, his wife called out: “Just stop!” So he did. The door slowed down and he walked out.
As a pastor, I am concerned about the out of balance conditions I see and hear about. Some people are way too busy, over-using skills they have which are in demand at work or at home. Others seem to have grown used to withdrawing, being reluctant to commit their gifts and skills at all. Couples raising families think they have no time to go on a fun date, nevertheless they continue to take on committments to serve in the community. Empty nesters and retirees sometimes fail to see the good they can do for others and themselves if they would get more involved. Worship, work, play, reflection, exercise, all have important roles in our lives.
There was one more lesson I was reminded of when I was up on the roof. When carrying heavy rolls of roofing on your shoulder, an old roofer taught me this watch-word: “Never lose contact with the ladder. If you let go, even briefly to balance your load, the heavy load will pull you down.” That means to me, that whatever I do, I must hold onto the ladder. It is contact with the ladder that enables me to carry a heavy load, for when I hold onto the ladder, the weight of the load is distributed through my contact to the ladder to the building itself. Jesus said “Cast your burdens upon me”. The ladder is also the one thing that will get me to my goal. My goal is to glorify God. Instead of trying to “get balance” or “get it together”, balance comes naturally when I am remain in constant with the One who sustains me and will get me to my goal.
Sabbath-keeping, remembering your Lord God, makes very good sense. Without it, if we take the extra time to “balance our load” and try to juggle it by ourselves, we will take our hands and heart away from that which sustains us. Then we might fall. Whether your Sabbath is Sunday, Saturdy, or even Monday, remember the importance of balance and how it comes. Balance comes when we head in the direction where God is and we never lose contact with Him.
Pastor Rick Church