balanced

When you are a pastor and you find yourself at a point where you are less missional, less prayerful, and less thoughtful than you have ever been in the past, something is obviously wrong.

When you read scripture just for the joy of it, and then you find ourself unable to even finish a chapter, a paragraph, or a sentence, much less be able to recall what you even read...or to make it worse, find yourself with no desire at all to read it, something is obviously wrong. 

When long morning prayer walks were something you once went to beed looking for to, and then prayer begins to seem like an impossible task at best, something is obviously wrong

 When you are a fitness enthusiast, and you find ourself working out harder than you ever have and eating very clean and right, yet gaining weight, while your body is constantly breaking down, and revealing itself in the extremes of a torn pec and blown out disc, something is obviously wrong.  

When reading (a whole book front to back, and often times 2-4 at a time) is one of your favorite pastimes, and now you find your shelf full of books only half-way read because you can't conjure up the energy or interest to read on, something is obviously wrong.

Balance is hard for me, it just is, I'm learning, and it seems by necessity, but it is hard.  I like to go all or nothing, and all or nothing are two very dangerous extremes, no matter which side you fall in.  

The River Conference of the Free Methodist church had their annual leadership conference this year in Austin.  I was only able to make one session due to it being Eden's birthday weekend, but the session I made seemed to be carved out just for me.  The superintendent, Dennis Jeffery, was giving a talk on personal and ecclesiastical health.  As he continued he talked about three major properties of the church: (1) Justice and Righteousness (Mishpat) (2) Mercy and Compassion (hesed) (3) wholeness, contemplative and the interior (shalom).  Then in small group sessions we discussed what it may look like when we and/or the church are lacking one of the three properties yet are very heavy on the other two.  It was a great conversation, but at some point it hit me, health - we are talking about balance!  Balance is key to health.  And as I began to reflect back over my life the past couple years and the church world, I've been involved with a church and have been a person who is all about the do-do-do, go-go-go, be part of the next big thing, get-it and go after it kind of mentality.  We/I were heavy on the justice and righteousness and the mercy and compassion, but the contemplative and the interior were ignored.  And it began to show.  

Ironically, this category would be similar to the idea of 'recovery' in the fitness world, which was also my area of neglect.  When you live this way, when you neglect the 'recovery' or the intentional practiced 'shalom', we begin to develop almost an active-laziness toward them, after all, in a world that promotes pushing oneself to the edge and extreme, it's easy to get caught up in the waters of action, which eventually causes someone to be locked into a state of acedia.  

Maybe that's not you, maybe you struggle in practicing in another one of the arenas.  Where ever you fall short (and we all do), the first step is recognition, and if you can't recognize it, then it would be discovery.  Begin to ask those around you, people who will tell you the truth about you, people who aren't impressed with you.  Take a spiritual, emotional, and physical innovatory of your life.  

Ask questions like the following (this is a limited list):

  • Spiritually:
    • Do I have a righteous anger toward the grave injustices in the world, yet at the same time lack compassion and mercy for the poor right around me?
    • Do I religiously study and read scripture and know the ends and out and do's and don'ts of scripture yet abstain from serving and giving to the poor and needy in my city?
    • Do I give and and serve the poor and needy and pay no attention to scripture and prayer, except for an occasional Sunday morning?
    • Am I theologically sound but spiritually dead?  Do I even know what that means?
    • Can I give a list of why all the liberals are wrong as I swim in my pool of excess? 
  • Physically:
    • Can I lift a lot of weight but not even run a mile?
    • Can I run a mile but have the strength of your 5 year old?
    • Does the couch and t.v. get more attention than movement?
    • Does recovery and rest make me feel like I'm getting fatter or getting out of shape?
    • Does things like yoga and stretching get the same attention as lifting and running?
    • Am I trying new things?
  • Emotionally:
    • Is anger quick to come by yet compassion seems hard to come by?
    • Are my feelings always changing?
    • Do I feel?
    • Do I need a television on in every room?
    • Cannot I not just be in the quiet?
    • Do I meditate?
    • Have I learned to enjoy the outside and nature as much if not more than inside produced entertainment?

At the end of the day, it's all about balance.  It's about yin and yang. It's about harmony.  It's about recognizing where you lack and giving yourself permission to come back into balance. It's about contentment.  It's about giving yourself permission to slow down, to breathe deeply, and live the ordinary life well.  Find balance!