by Faith Clarke – article Jan – March 2019
Is balance a scale, settled on its fulcrum with equal weights on either side? Firstly, that isn’t realistic, there’s no day when there are ONLY 2 things, that get equal effort. We have children, work, family, personal care, spiritual health, worship, service, vocation and hobbies…
Balance implies that we know what’s required and then allocate appropriate time to each thing. That suggests prioritization. Yet, although we acknowledge family as more important to us than our jobs, we spend more time at work than with our families; and with God at the top of our priority list, time in spiritual practice can fall a poor third to work and family time. Are we out of balance?
Things Come Up
I think prioritization rather than balance is more realistic. Have you had that call from a loved one where you dropped everything, to serve and to help them? Or when your child doesn’t sleep the night through and you don’t sleep either but then you don’t go to work because your exhaustion means you might be dangerous or unkind to other humans; are you out of balance then? I don’t think so. I think you made a choice about what your priority was in the moment.
As a mom of a child with special needs, I’ve noticed that it’s hard to know ahead of time all the things that I’ll deal with each day. Who knows which combination of a snow day (no school) and a stomach virus (no sleep) and a winter storm (no heat or power) a panic attack (no peace) will come my way? If I don’t know, how can I plan, much less plan in a way that establishes balance?
A Time for Everything
With the massive unknown created by competing roles and surprise events, I’ve decided that balance is a myth and that another strategy is needed to maintain peace and sanity. It’s called ‘figuring out your priorities’. I know we all know our general priorities, God, Family and so on but usually there are at least 5 things calling for our attention and only 1 thing that’s urgent. The trick is knowing which one.
“There is a time for everything,” Ecclesiastes 3. It’s true and such a relief! It means that, if I don’t have time for it, then ‘it’, may not be a ‘thing’ that I need to be doing. How do we determine our priorities?
Four Steps to Figuring it Out.
1. Choose the easy way. I believe if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing the hard way but that doesn’t mean I need to choose the hard way all the time! As a ‘type A, get things done person’, I’m pretty competent at most things and I can be caught doing many, things that I just don’t have to do. I don’t have to build the nativity set myself, I can buy one. I don’t have to pick the children up, I can let them take the train. Some of the items competing for our attention can be delegated to others or just done the easy way. Think what is most efficient!
2. Priorities. What do you really, want to be spending your time and energies on? Sometimes we are caught doing tasks for others, that’s outside of our comfort zone. This is often the case with ministry and service opportunities. Sometimes saying ‘no’ to a request will leave space for the person or opportunity that really fits the need to be found.
So make a list of what you really want to be spending time and energy on.
Specially note the priorities that you think take more time/energy than they should and the others that are not getting enough attention.
Make another list of the things that you currently spend time on that aren’t on your first list.
These 2 lists are prayer prompts… opportunities to discuss your time and energy utilization with the Maker of time and energy. Abba Father!
3. Schedule. Block out time you want to use for the items on your list. I like to create an ideal week with blocks for learning, work with clients, self-care, worship, etc. This is also a discernment opportunity. God will help you find a rhythm for your week and month. As you do, ensure you create generous time boundaries for transition between activities. For example, I realized that I can spend several hours in activity with my children or with clients but the moment I stop and am by myself, I need at least 30 minutes of recovery time before I can move to the next activity. I’m usually found sitting in the car before my next appointment reading, listening to music or browsing social media. That 30 minute boundary needs to be part of my transition time. The same goes for preparation time before activities. If you are the person that tends to have a 20 minute shower even though you plan for 5 minutes, own that about yourself and honor that time. Notice your typical trends and PLAN TIME FOR THEM. That way, they don’t sneak up and hijack your schedule and you won’t feel deprived.
4. See Clearly. Even though we plan, stuff happens, which is often outside our control and can overwhelm us. My husband Isaiah leads our church’s worship team. Sometimes, team members get sick or are otherwise unable to participate. So, at a moment’s notice, he could be on the schedule in a role that he hadn’t planned to be in. The unexpected happens all the time and you have to respond to it. For all of us, knowing when to say yes and when to say no, is an act of discernment.
I’ve noticed that it’s difficult to separate the competing voices and demands when we are anxious and unsettled. The Scriptures are right. Peace guards our heart, the place of discernment and intuition (the knowing you sometimes can’t explain). Often it’s impossible to think clearly without this peace. In such times, I know the priority cannot be determined without that clarity and It’s quite difficult to perceive without peace, so peace becomes THE priority.
This lesson is a tough one to grasp and can be even tougher to master. The truth is that we don’t effectively align with our priorities and know how to respond to the situations that face us if we aren’t anchored deep down, knowing that we are safe and capable and have access to all the resources we need. A wise friend calls this the ‘non-anxious presence’. When I allow myself to be present in a non-anxious way, regardless of what’s going on around me, I can see the situations so much clearer, hear the priorities of my heart loudly and can discern the promptings of the Spirit.
Even though there is no such thing as perfect balance, there is such a thing as balancing, so that we can honor the fact that there is a time for everything. Balancing involves working smart, understanding our priorities, creating time for those priorities and practicing peace so we can respond to the daily upheavals with grace, being able to see the situation, our priorities and the invitation of the Spirit, clearly.
The issues faced and the time and energy needed to engage those things will vary daily. There are no formulas and thank God for that! Life is dynamic. Only the knowledge that we have access to the One who loves us fully, knows us completely and will guide our moments so they build His Kingdom on earth. Here’s to BALANCING well in 2019.