Another Look by David Faust
First-graders at Salem Elementary School didn’t use fancy playground equipment in 1960, but we had fun anyway. We played on swings, a merry-go-round, and the ever-popular teeter-totter. Some called it a see-saw, but ours—a tottery, weathered board creaking back and forth on a rusty hinge—rightly deserved the name teeter-totter.
Six-year-olds can’t explain the laws of physics, but they know how to make them work. When a chubby kid sat on one end of the board and a skinny kid on the other end, something had to give. The smaller child would scoot to the end of the board and the heavier one would slide toward the middle until their weight balanced out.
Sometimes children do better than adults when it comes to finding the right balance. Grownups? We work too much, eat too much, spend too much, worry too much. On New Year’s Day we promise to do better. And we do—until the middle of January. By March the balanced diet has given way to nightly bowls of ice cream, the exercise bike has yielded to the TV remote, and the books we pledged to read are collecting dust on the shelf.
A well-balanced life is worth pursuing. It honors God when we find a healthy mix of work and relaxation, exercise and rest—when we find time for others and time to be alone, time to work with our hands and time to exercise our minds. The Bible warns about laziness, but it doesn’t tell us to push too hard. Burnout blesses no one. A passage in Ecclesiastes says, “Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise—why destroy yourself? . . . The man who fears God will avoid all extremes” (7:16, 18). If you don’t pace yourself, you’d better brace yourself for the crash you will eventually experience.
Balance is elusive. Jesus “grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men”—the perfect example of intellectual, physical, spiritual, and social balance (Luke 2:52). But at one point in his ministry, Jesus and his disciples were so busy they could hardly find an opportunity to eat—a lifestyle so unbalanced that Jesus’ relatives worried about his health (Mark 3:20, 21). The apostle Paul had a lot to say about contentment and peace, but his life was filled with adventure, unpredictability, and little of what we call balance. Living by faith made his life harder, not easier. His missionary lifestyle placed him in extreme situations where hunger, thirst, danger, sleepless nights, and high stress levels were par for the course (2 Corinthians 11:23-28).
Jesus says, “Come, follow me,” not “Come, live a safe, predictable life.” Some might consider it extreme that James and John left their fishing business to follow Jesus, but they were simply responding to the Lord’s call, wherever it led and whatever it required.
I’m not sure a perfectly balanced life is even the right goal. Pursuing the kingdom of God is the right goal. Sometimes that means working 18 hours a day, and sometimes it means taking a nap or playing with your grandkids. Sometimes it means the church will enjoy “a time of peace” (Acts 9:31l), and sometimes it means we will face pressure so intense it seems “beyond our ability to endure” (2 Corinthians 1:8). Our heavenly Father takes care of us in all circumstances, but he isn’t an over-protective parent; he allows us to go through times of stress and strain for our own good.
If your life has gotten out of balance, take a fresh whiff of God’s grace. Give yourself and others a break. If you’ve been lazy, step it up. If you’re a workaholic, relax and quit overdoing it. Like a child on a teeter-totter, you may not find the perfect balance, but you can make some adjustments.
The person on the other end of the board will appreciate it.