Sometimes, it feels like a balanced life just isn’t possible. I always imagine spinning plates when I think about balance, and every activity I add to my life adds to this load of plates. If I add too many plates, balancing does become completely impossible. I’m only one person, and too many plates in the air will just bring them all crashing down. The reality is, balance is absolutely possible, but it is always in process. Every change requires a bit of adjustment to get back to balance. So, I imagine it this way. I can’t add another plate in the air right now, but I can add some food to each plate as long as I position it just right to keep that plate balanced. If there gets to be too much food on the plate, then it’s time to adjust. Get rid of something if I have to in order to make room for something else. Sometimes, I have to add a few extra plates, more than I am capable of. That’s when I need an extra hand. So, I enlist some extra help from family at home, or volunteers in ministry, or I hire help for home or work in those times. I make adjustments for a time. When we find ourselves grasping for balance over an elongated time frame, it’s time to re-evaluate our activities and see what needs to be put to the side for now.
Here are a few truths about balance that I keep in front of me as I’m making decisions about the plates I’m spinning. Practically speaking, there are thousands of scenarios every day that are unique to your particular situation. These truths are applicable straight across the board for the follower of Jesus Christ.
Truth #1 – Jesus Christ must have the highest priority in your life. Period. One of the fastest ways to lose our balance in life, is to neglect our walk with the Lord. Without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we will be making decisions every day in our own will and power. One of my favorite quotes is from Martin Luther who said, “I have so much to do that I shall first spend three hours in prayer.” Now, this time frame was his own personal conviction, but the principle is one we often overlook when we are busy. We must keep our time with the Lord the number one priority in our life. We must allow Him to determine the course of our days. Only then will we have any hope of maintaining balance. Psalm 37:23 says “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” (NLT). To let God direct our steps, we must know what He says to us in His word. We must talk to Him. So many of us allow the “busy” of our life to keep us from the Lord. It’s so easy to make excuses and say we just don’t have time to spend with God. So, we go through life on our own. Day after day – stressed out – running from one activity to the next wondering how to balance it all. And God is sitting by, just waiting patiently for us to finally look up from our life and remember that He’s there. He cares about the details of our day and He desires to spend time with us! He wants to show us His best for us that day. So, don’t leave God out of your life. Pray first, read His word, and follow His leading.
Truth #2 – You can’t (and shouldn’t) do it all. Another serious problem most of us have is that we feel guilty. Constantly. About everything. I can wake up at 6am, do my quiet time, go to the gym, take a shower, shampoo the carpets, do 3 loads of laundry, take lunch to my husband, take a kid to a doctor’s appointment, clean up the kitchen, and feel guilty for not putting any effort into my business. The next day I can work for 10 hours, study for a class I’m teaching, spend time talking to my kids and husband about their days when I get home, and feel guilty that I didn’t get the bathroom cleaned yet. This can go on day after day after day. Oh, and heaven forbid we should allow ourselves to just take a day off to do nothing and stay in our jammies. Talk about guilt! Here’s the thing: there will ALWAYS be something to do, something to fill our schedules. It doesn’t matter what activities you do today, there will be many things left undone at the end of the day. And, that’s ok! Balance requires us to let things go. In order to work, do ministry, and spend quality time with my family, there are things that I have to say no to, or set aside for a time. For instance, maybe when you first got married you always had a spotless home. Laundry was done every day, dishes were always clean, you even cleaned the windows regularly. Now, you have several kids, a full-time career, and your serving in some capacity in your church. It is completely unrealistic to expect that your house will stay as spotless as it used to. You can keep it clean, of course, but it’s not going to get done the way it did when you didn’t have all these other plates spinning in the air. If you try to do it all perfectly, the plates will eventually come crashing down. Here are my questions for you if you are trying to do everything perfectly. How much time do you spend in prayer each day? Bible reading and journaling? Are you involved in a Bible study or discipleship of some sort? If the answer is zero, refer back to Truth #1 and re-evaluate. Doing everything “perfectly” while neglecting your walk with God will eventually set you on a downward course with all those plates crashing around you. You gotta let some things go, and you need the Holy Spirit’s help to know what and when.
Truth #3 – Control your schedule or your schedule will control you. This is the one I struggle with the most, the one I have the hardest time teaching my children. We only have so many minutes in the day, and the more plates we’re spinning, the more vital it is that we budget every minute. Again, this skill is going to vary based on the current situations. This time of year is the busiest time for me at work, so that requires me to budget more time in the salon and less time on ministry and housework. Then, there are other times that I take extra time away from work and ministry for the purpose of spending more time with my family. In January of this year, my husband and I sat down and set up time off throughout the entire year to get away as a family, and as a couple. I blocked out these travel dates and changed my work schedule to give myself another weekly day off for the purpose of adding in more activities for church and family. I have (mostly) stayed true to these adjustments all year and God has blessed the business, even with the extra time off. Other times require a stronger focus on ministry and we have to make sacrifices in our family schedule. If we aren’t consciously planning out our schedules, it is very easy to pour all of our time into the business or into our ministry and neglect our relationships at home. There are many reasons for this, which would require a whole other blog series, but we must use truths 1 and 2 as we navigate how to balance our schedules.
The conversation on balance could go on forever, but I hope these basic truths give you a foundation to grow on.