“To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.”
This quote is probably familiar to many. It is a quote from the Bible, Ecclesiastes 3:1 to be exact. For those who haven’t cracked open a Bible, yet feel that the words still sound familiar it is the opening line from the Byrds hit song, “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season)”.
So what does this have to do with balance? Well, as I said the three things that help define balance for me are understanding our own strengths and weaknesses, tension, and priorities. To me this verse and the rest of chapter 3 talk about how life has different seasons and how there are times for all activities and purposes even within man’s limited lifetime. In other words there will be times in our lives where our focuses are different.
It seems to me that often times when I hear people talk about balance, it is often balance in the short term. It is the idea of having a day in which we get a number of different types of activities done throughout the day. We work, spend time with the family, exercise, develop community, and any other list of things. It is then believed that each day we are supposed to do that to be balanced. When we find out this isn’t possible, because it isn’t, we give up on the idea of balance and throw it in the waste basket.
Don’t we go through different seasons of life though? Aren’t there times in our lives where it is good and even necessary for there to be priorities in our lives? Right now Kristen and I have two fairly young children. As any parent can tell you, your children will take a high priority in your life. Particularly when they are young and can’t really do much of anything without your help or without you doing all of it for them. Now, this priority is good and right. There will be things that you can’t do that you could when you were single or even married without kids. However, even with that priority, we still need balance. The existence of priorities doesn’t destroy the need for balance, if anything it highlights our need for it, even if it may not look all that balanced in terms of time or effort each day.
What do I mean? Well, one relationship that is easy to go by the wayside when you are focused on raising your children is the one with your spouse. You’re focused on kids, you can’t go out as easily as you used to, there isn’t the time to have long conversations, and when the kids are in bed you’re pretty much done too. Now does the fact that kids are a priority mean that your relationship with your spouse has lost any priority whatsoever? No, and so despite this new priority that has come into your life there is still the need to take time for the other priorities in your life. This is true of more than just our relationship to our spouse.
Now, here’s the tricky part, this is again not going to look the same for every person. For the single parent who is trying to provide for their children as best as they can, work may take up a substantial amount of their time. It may mean there are fewer priorities that get focused on. It may be survival, and making sure my kids are provided for. It may also be trying to gain experience or education on top of things to be able to get a better job and not have to work as much in the future. Depending on where you are and the circumstances you’re dealing with your priorities will play out differently.
We all won’t join gyms and get washboard abs while raising three young kids, but we might want to try to take care of our health as best as we can in that time. We may not all be able to have romantic getaway vacations, or even date nights, with our spouses after having kids, but take the time to invest into your relationship with your spouse however you can. We won’t all have careers, book deals, or professional success, but we might try to work on new skills and hobbies anyway. We won’t all have time for quiet times or reading the Bible everyday, but maybe we still need to work on our relationship with God any way we can.
Life will change, and priorities will change. Even if the label on the priority may not change, how it looks in our daily life might change significantly. The kids who now take up so much time today will grow and be able to do more and more themselves. Someday they will move out and set forth on their own. They will always be a priority, but how that plays out will be different.
I guess that’s why I look at balance as more of a long term thing than short term. Some days it may seem like you can get nothing done because of your kids needing you or some other priority. However, on other days you can spend time with friends, make time for your spouse, whatever. Just because one day didn’t have a balanced split between your priorities doesn’t mean you failed. You may still not get everything done you want, you may only be able to juggle a certain number of priorities successfully at a given time, but I do think that having a sense of what our priorities are in this season of life will help us achieve a certain level of balance.
So don’t worry if your day didn’t include every priority you have. Maybe you haven’t even really thought about what the top priorities are, and putting some thought and substance behind them will help. Even then each day may not accomplish all of those priorities, and I’d recommend looking at things over the period of a week or even a month depending. At that point I think you can look to see if one priority is taking up more time than it should, or if another priority is is not really seeing the light of day. If this is happening then take action, but let’s not worry about having one day that didn’t include all that we wanted to. I have yet to have a day that has, and I’m probably sure nobody has.
So that’s my thoughts and reflections on balance. I don’t think balance is perfection. I don’t think that it will all look the same for everyone. We’re all different. We have different personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. We’re all at different seasons of life with different priorities. We all have to face and wrestle with the tensions of life.
Any final thoughts on balance out there? Feel free to leave any comments, but that’s all for this little series on balance.