Balance. As a pastor, the word prances lightly around in my head, the sweet promise of a state of ministry nirvana. Always within reach, but, at best, never quite attained, the idea of balance is one I recognize as being essential, but never quite material, you know?
Or maybe it’s just me.
But then I Google “ministry balance,” and almost 93 million entries present themselves in less than half a second. Whew. Not just me.
From time to time, I’ve put some thought into how ministry balance actually manifests itself. Every time I do, my thoughts go back to the teeter-totter. Did you ever ride one? As a kid, I did from time to time. And here’s what I remember: in achieving balance, the longest I was ever actually still on a teeter-totter was about two seconds. The rest of the time, I was lightly pushing off from the ground with my feet, leaning back, wiggling my butt forward or backward. Constant adjustment.
In point of fact, straddling a bench should be the same experience as sitting on a teeter-totter. But because the position of the plank is fixed, there’s no leaning, no pushing, no butt wiggling. No constant adjustment. No work, to be frank.
There’s also no actual balance.
That’s because balance is healthy tension. More to the point: it is not the stationary position that a part of us wants it to be. Balance involves near-constant tweaking and correction. In our lives, balance involves being open to the need for changes – occasionally large, but mostly smaller. Perhaps most importantly, it involves being able to check our pride at the door.
As a pastor who grew up in a pastor’s home, I’ve had the chance to observe many who have made ministry their life. And in regard to ministry balance, I’ve observed many who have turned their teeter-totter into a bench, then congratulated themselves on having achieved balance. In the process, they missed opportunities to grow, to adjust, to better position themselves for a healthy pursuit of God’s mission in their context.
And the longer one straddles the bench, the less one identifies with the work that comes with the teeter-totter; from that perspective, those incorporating the healthy tension of balance are seen as fidgety, immature, unsettled. So generalizations and stereotypes borne of mistrust are applied, when what is actually needed is perspective, encouragement, friendship. In response to both this absence of encouragement and this presence of generalizations, many will push off with both feet when what they actually needed was a little butt wiggle.
In the end, balance is not a destination; it’s a state of being that manifests itself differently at various points. I’ve purposely avoided direct applications here, but the reality of what balance actually is applies to your inner life, your family, and lifestyle expressions of faith both personal and corporate, just to name a few areas.
Hop back on the teeter-totter. God’s balance for you isn’t found straddling the bench.