Balance. Very few have it, everyone wants it, and there are a zillion resources out there for how YOU can achieve it. If only it were that easy. For me the idea of a balanced life is like trying to catch the wind with a butterfly net. I keep telling myself that things will all fall into place when I learn to balance my life more effectively. Like millions of others, I just don’t have the time to make a plan, read all the books or the money to acquire a life coach. Sometimes I feel like I’m swimming in a sea of obligations and commitments and not only do I not have a life jacket, I don’t even know how to swim!
For weeks now I’ve been whining (what me whine? I know you can hardly believe it.) and complaining about being too busy. I have a list a mile long of things that I “need” to do in addition to the things that I “have” to do. I am weighed down with housework, parenting, grocery shopping, cooking, organizing, etc…. I am buried beneath books that I promised myself I would read. I am surrounded by commitments I had made to my kids’ school and our church. I felt pressure to eat right and get back on track with an exercise routine. The days were getting longer and nights were getting shorter and I found myself moving further and further away from any trace of balance in my life. I had so many good intentions, but I was losing the battle. In sharing these thoughts with family and friends it seems this lack of balance had become some kind of common malady for the masses. The real kicker was that I felt like I had created all of this imbalance on my own. I felt like it was all my fault because I hadn’t mastered the art of saying “no.”
“Just say NO when the requests come. You can do it,” I kept trying to tell myself. You don’t have to make cookies for every school event. Every birthday party doesn’t have to be a big blow out. You don’t have to get it all done in one day. No one said you had to be perfect. I began to think that the key to finding balance was to guard my yeses and carefully weigh my noes. Simple right? I was certain that I had stumbled across the answer of a lifetime. The ultimate trick to achieving balance. In my mind’s eye I could picture the scale coming into perfect balance. I was a genius.
My genius was short-lived. It wasn’t long before I was back in the pit. I hadn’t guarded my yeses enough and I weighed only one “no” and that “no” was rebuffed. I hadn’t thought about that. I naively thought that if you told someone “no” that they would politely back off. Note to self–that’s not always the case.
I was feeling pretty low and right on cue, the guilt crept in (and sometimes that’s the worst part.) The guilt that reminds you that you have everything that you need and so much more. The guilt that says stop bellyaching and look around…you have a home, food, money in the bank, good health, a wonderful husband and family, and great friends. The guilt that prompts you to realize that your life is better than so many others and that you have NOTHING to complain about. The guilt that says maybe they asked because you can…. Uggg! Now I was completely out of balance and racked with guilt.
I was starting to feel nauseous. I can’t win here. Life started piling up. Can you plan the class party? Can you bake cupcakes? Can you organize this? Can you volunteer for that? Would you mind doing (fill in the blank)? It was getting to the point where I wanted to stop answering the phone and venture out of the house only in disguise. My life scale wasn’t just unbalanced, it was on the verge of collapsing. And that’s when it happened. Right on time and in His time, the weight began to lift. I saw the whole situation with fresh eyes.
I had burdened myself with countless projects and obligations and I asked God to help me honor my commitments. I asked him to forgive me of the pride that fooled me into thinking I could take on so much. The Holy Spirit put into my heart a reminder that I “can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I clearly need His help and I needed to ask for it. I prayed for discernment and that God would help me weigh my yeses and noes. What I received was something that I didn’t expect. In every project that I had dreaded or wished that I had said “no” to, I found God’s love. In my commitment to teach, I found willing and joyful students. In my commitment to lead, I found dedicated and giving volunteers. In my obligation to help a friend, I found time to talk and share life stories. In mundane office work, I found community. In tedious organizing, I found a renewed sense of purpose. In class, I was reminded that God calls us to serve. As it turns out, I was blessed when I said “yes.”
My house is still a disaster. The laundry pile grows in the dark. I dread making dinner every night. I’m still not sure that I want to answer the phone. Obviously, as I write this my life scale remains lopsided (I am human after all.) But I’m beginning to wonder if the idea of balance is a box we chain ourselves to or an imaginary oasis we’re not meant to find. In the meantime, I have resolved to keep one eye on the scale, the other eye fixed on God, and my hands ready to serve…when asked.