The waves lapped calmly toward the shore as the young man hovered above the water, putting one foot in front of the other on the slackline. Captivated by curiosity, onlookers paused in their stroll along the boardwalk that hugged the shoreline of the bay. As we watched from a distance, hoping for his successful crossing, yet humorously knowing a short fall and a refreshing splash could be the outcome, we watched as he artfully traversed the line, swaying in the air, and at long last, the pull of gravity, a slight wind, and a misplaced step brought him into the salty ocean water.
Balance is something we strive for in our fast-paced society. Self-help books line the shelves of shops and offer us hope for finding the perfect way to schedule and orient our daily activities so we can accomplish more, utilize our time more efficiently, and help us to produce maximum output at minimal stress, the perfect balance of work, play and rest. But balance never seems to come, as if it were some illusory and unattainable goal.
One of my husband’s seminary professors recently challenged his students that perhaps balance is a myth. It is widely held that balance is something we can achieve and is necessary for our health and well-being. But could it be that if we are always seeking this and never finding it, that perhaps it is a false idea. It is so ingrained in our society, that to think of not pursuing balance seems ludicrous. Perhaps we are not meant to pursue balance, but instead to pursue faithfulness.
When the young man was attempting to cross the slackline, he was seeking balance, yet never finding it. He was teetering to the left and to the right the entire way. Trying to resist a sudden gust of wind, or pulling away from the gravity that sought to bring him down, he shook and swayed and kept moving forward because to stop would cause a certain fall. And fall, he did, never achieving balance if but for half a second. Though he inevitably fell off the line, he seemed to enjoy the water in the cool of the summer evening, cheers went up and he got right back on the line to try again. His commitment to practicing and moving forward was what got him across and accomplishing his goal.
As I plan out the various aspects of my role as a Christian, wife, mother, church worker, homemaker, birth doula, writer, and whatever other roles I take on, I am realizing that balance might just be a myth. As we try to order and prioritize our responsibilities, we need to seek faithfulness instead of balance.
When I have a sick child at home, I may not be able to serve in Sunday School that day, but care for my child at home. When a client calls me to a birth, I may need to stop cooking a meal, call a friend to watch my kids while I run to assist a woman in labor. If my child is successfully taking a nap, and all is well in my home, I may be able to carve out 30 minutes to write an article for a non-profit ministry that I serve. But if my child wakes up early and my plans are interrupted, I need to close my computer, put down my book, stop writing my grocery list, or leave a bathroom half cleaned, and pull that little one onto my lap for a story, and refocus my attention on this dear one.
Often I feel the gravity pulling me in more than one direction. In that moment, I need to set my eyes on Christ, take a deep breath and ask the Lord how to put one foot in front of the other, allowing myself the freedom to sway and shake, but faithfully moving forward, putting the most important things first, and letting everything else fall into place in their time. At times, I may take a misstep, and fall unabashedly into the water below. But hopefully, I will surface with a laugh, a shake of the head and keep moving forward with one foot steadily in front of the other, seeking not balance, but faithfulness.