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Fighting For Balance

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Just a year ago, my life was radically different than it is today. I was working a part-time job at a marketing firm in Dallas, serving part-time as a college minister at a church in suburban Fort Worth, living in suburban north Dallas, and attending seminary in south Fort Worth. While I’m thankful for the opportunities I had, my life was scattered and hectic. I was putting over 30,000 miles on my car every year.
Things reached a critical mass when Caleb was born. Suddenly, I couldn’t be an effective student, web designer, minister, husband, and father all at the same time. I felt like nobody was getting the best from me and my stress levels went through the roof.

Eventually, I felt God leading me to do something painful. After getting my full-time position at Grad Resources, I quit both part-time positions and withdrew from classes at the seminary. It meant saying goodbye to people who had been great to me. It meant putting my desire for a Masters degree indefinitely on hold. But it also meant being more faithful to the priorities God has given me. Those priorities are as follows:

1. My personal relationship with Christ
2. My family
3. My work & ministry

It’s one thing to say these are my priorities but in order to follow them, I have to establish well-defined boundaries that protect them. One of the best books I’ve read recently is Dr. Richard Swenson’s In Search of Balance. He puts it best.

The secret of balance is not found in enforced uniformity and legalistic rigidity. Instead it is achieved, first, in placing durable priorities at the center of our existence, and, second, placing our lives in a stable orbit around these same priorities.

For me, this has meant establishing the following rules.

To preserve my relationship with Christ…

I ensure that I will get at least 7 hours of sleep every night. Prior to going to bed, I spend the last hour of the day relaxing and winding down. I take one night off each week, with Holly’s permission, to be in community with the other guys in our Sunday school class. I preserve my first hour in the office each morning for Bible study, reading, and focusing for the day. I also preserve two sanctioned times each day for dedicated prayer. Additionally, I serve, grow, and worship regularly in our church every week.

To preserve my relationship with my family…

I do not bring my work home with me under any circumstances. I do not sit down to relax until Caleb is in bed. After that, my attention is on Holly. Unless it is to write for this blog, my laptop doesn’t even come home with me. I don’t answer emails, text messages, or phone calls unless it’s from family or close friends after 5PM each night. In most cases, I won’t even bring the phone out if Caleb is around. Additionally, I come into the office 30 minutes early 3 days a week so I can be home earlier and take advantage of extra time with Caleb before he goes to bed.

On Saturdays, I take Caleb to the mall for a few hours so we can spend time together and have lunch as father and son. Holly gets to take a break. In the afternoons, we go out as a family to run errands or do something fun together.

To preserve my ministry…

I plan out my entire week on Monday mornings, establishing reasonable timetables for all of my projects and necessary communications. My office door is metaphorically open in the afternoons but shut in the mornings so I can give my best attention to my projects when I’m most productive.

I also protect myself from situations that might leave room for accusation in my life. I’m not alone with a woman who isn’t Holly in the car or in my office, I will not share a meal alone with a woman who isn’t Holly, etc.

Setting and keeping these boundaries can be difficult but they are vital. If my family is more important than my career, then I have to be willing to sacrifice upward mobility in my career for the sake of my family. The same goes for my relationship with Christ.

The problem is that life is constantly escalating and as we get busier, we are tempted to let one area of life flood over the others. Especially as technology advances, it seems that our phones, tablets, and computers demand our availability 24/7. But in order to remain balanced followers of Christ in everyday life, we must be willing to fight for these boundaries. Again, Richard Swenson hits the nail on the head.

What we are witnessing is a continuous escalation of the norm followed rapidly by a normalization of the escalation that then becomes the new normal… But if, for you, “normal” is whatever best serves your long-term priorities, then you have made a decision to be biased against escalation in favor of balance, sustainability, and priorities… If we want balance back in our lives, we must be willing to confront the forces of escalation and coercion wherever they are found.

I truly believe busyness is an enemy to our spiritual health. We shouldn’t be lazy and we shouldn’t waste the opportunities God has given us. However, in order to effectively live for Christ we must be willing to say ‘no’ to opportunities that will compromise our priorities. We must learn that not every need constitutes a call. Only then can we give our 100% to the things we are truly called to do.

Discuss: What boundaries have you set in your life to protect your priorities?

Posted in: Discipleship

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