By: Matt Evans– After 13 years of marriage, 2 kids and 3 different homes, my wife and I finally took the plunge and added a new member to our family…a Fox Red Labrador Retriever puppy. We were so excited about surprising our kids with a dog that we may have failed to fully consider the cost, and I don’t mean dollars and cents. Little did we know how much this furry creature could upset our familial apple cart.
The addition of the dog has threatened the balance we strive to maintain within our family. We are now required to get up earlier, stand out in the cold hoping that she will quickly do her “business”. Then we have to scoop said business. And of course there are times when the “business” is done inside the house and we have to clean it up. But I digress. We have the added expenditure of food and supplies. And the worst is the nipping. Just getting around our house is like walking through shark-infested waters (man puppies have some seriously sharp teeth). Who knew that a puppy needed the same type of care and attention as that of a newborn child? All that is to say, we are adjusting to a new normal and longing to regain balance in our family.
I have a friend who once said regarding theology “blessed are the balanced”. I think this is true in all areas of life. When it comes to family, work, and life in general, I am constantly striving to ensure that my priorities are in order and that I’m achieving balance. But more often than not I am out of balance in one or multiple areas. I’d even go so far as to say that I’m really good at staying out of balance. Maybe you are too? Or perhaps you’ve at least experienced what it is like to live a life out of balance. If this isn’t you I might suggest you check your pulse. And if you’ll continue reading, I’d like to offer some ways that I have personally found to ensure a life consistently out of balance:
1. Work, Work and Work Some More
If I am not careful, I can easily start to believe that work defines me. My identity is wrapped up in what I’m producing, how well I’m doing at my job, or how fast and high I’m climbing the corporate ladder. This leads me to work longer hours, think nonstop about work, and spend less time and attention with my family and investing in other important relationships.
As men, we are driven by the hunt. We want to produce. Make a mark. Or as Dave Ramsey says, we want to “kill it and drag it home.” Work is important. We have to provide for our families and there certainly is an opportunity to make an impact in the world. Ecclesiastes 2:24 says “There is nothing better for a person than to eat, drink, and enjoy his work. I have seen that even this is from God’s hand.” Work is a really great thing. But it isn’t everything. And it certainly isn’t the place you will make the greatest impact. I remember one Father’s Day, a quest speaker at our church said, “Fathers, the greatest influence you have is not with the people in your workplace, it is with your children and your wife.” Our lives can be woefully out of balance when we spend all of our time, energy and focus on work while neglecting those in our families who need us the most.
2. Say Yes to Everything
There is always something that can or should be done. That doesn’t mean I am the one who always has to do it. As a parent, there is a temptation to say yes to every sport, club, team, performance or activity. So many families are running ragged from trying to keep up with school, work, extracurricular activities and travel teams. None of those things are inherently bad. But many times we do these things at the expense of necessary downtime and/or quality family time. And it ends up costing us in the long run. Some of the most memorable times we have had as a family involved building a blanket fort in the living room, eating popcorn and watching a movie together. Regaining balance means learning to say that tough little two-letter word. NO!
3. Play the Comparison Game
At my worst, I look at my neighbors and friends and determine my worth or standing by comparing myself to them. “Look at my neighbor. He doesn’t have it all together” I might say. Or worse, “Well if the Joneses got a new car then certainly I deserve one too.” Or much worse “My kids aren’t nearly as smart as the other kids at school. I need to push them harder.” Comparison is a trap that only leads to disappointment. Different isn’t bad. God made each of us unique. Chances are if I look just like everyone else, then something is wrong. If being weird means I don’t carry tons of debt, overschedule myself, take my parent cues from others or judge those who are different than me then I’ll gladly be weird.
4. Wring Your Hands in Worry
It could be about money. Or status. Maybe it’s how others perceive me. There are so many things I choose to worry about, much of which I have little to no control over. Jesus said “Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25). He goes on to say that if God takes care of all of creation, how much more will he take care of us. If we will just keep our eyes on God and his Kingdom, we should have no worries. Worry is a sure sign that something in my life is out of balance.
5. Allow For Unlimited Screen Time
I don’t even want to calculate how much time I spend looking at my computer, phone, tablet or television (many at the same time). I can say with relative certainty that the quality of my life isn’t directly proportional to the amount of time I’ve spent staring at my phone. And yet, I can’t seem to stop. As I scroll through my social media or check my email, there is a whole world of relationships and opportunities passing me by. I desperately need barriers and boundaries when it comes to balancing technology and screen time. It seems like everyone else does too. Don’t believe me? The next time you are at a restaurant, count how many people you see staring at their phones. It’s shocking.
6. Stop Listening
If I keep my plans and ideas to myself, then no one can judge me or talk me out of them. This is the way I’d like it. Just leave me alone and let me do whatever I think is best. Except that I have a pretty horrible track record with that. When my only source of perspective, wisdom or advice comes from me, I’m destined for imbalance (and often disaster). As much as I’d like to think otherwise, I don’t have it all figured out. I desperately need wisdom to navigate this life. Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”(ESV) Thankfully there are people all around me with a wealth of life experience and years of walking with Jesus that can give me a much-needed dose of wisdom and perspective. The more I listen and heed sound advice, the more likely I am to retain or regain balance.
7. Leave God Out
There are so many times and ways I look to leave God out of my life. Prayer becomes a last resort. My bible gets dusty. I turn to my own way. And I along with my family and friends pay the price. Our lives were made by God and for God. The sum of our lives is found in Jesus words “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37). Failure to pursue a vibrant relationship with God will ensure that your life stays out of balance.
So, if you like riding down the road with an incessant vibration, uneven tread wear, and a higher probability of a blowout, go ahead give a few of the above a try and see how uncomfortable the road of life can be. But might I recommend pursuing a balanced life. Pursue wisdom and walk with Jesus allowing his perspective to be yours. Because life is so much better when it’s balanced.
Matt Evans is a pastor, writer, and worship artist. He currently serves as Pastor of Worship & Creative Arts at Skycrest Baptist Church in the Tampa, FL area. Matt has contributed to such works as The Family God Uses and Stand Firm. He, his wife Karen, and their two children live outside Tampa, FL.