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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

There is no Such Thing as Balance. Only Seasons.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard “God first. Family second. Work third” as the celebrated framework for responsibility.

Wives use it against their husbands. Husbands use it against their wives. Children us it against their parents. Employees (especially in churches) use it against their bosses. People use it to berate themselves.

I get it. It’s designed as a barometer.

But it isn’t biblical.

It is often a weapon against others.

It is often a rebuke.

It often causes guilt.

But it’s only a neat notion and bumper sticker wisdom.

It isn’t necessarily “evil.” But, it is wrong. And potentially damaging.

I have had a few counseling meetings lately where the idea of priorities and responsibility have come up. Everyone I have counseled—EVERY one—has said something about this little triad of God, Family, and Work.

The other word that gets thrown around a lot is “balance.”

For instance . . .

In Susie Housewife’s mind, Bob the Builder has worked too many hours at work. The job has kept him away. Out of town. He missed a baseball game. This quickly disintegrates into “he doesn’t care, his priorities are wrong, he loves his job more than the family and he is out of “balance.” Susie’s remedy is re-prioritizing. God. Family. Work. Susie looks forward to living a normal life. A balanced life.

Or . . .

Ken and Barbie both have jobs and work hard. Barbie is a designer and she has been super busy this summer. Ken has had to watch the kids multiple nights in a row. He is mad at Barbie. She never watches their favorite show with him anymore. It’s been 3 months. Plus, she worked on the Vacation Bible School at church and that demanded attention. Ken thinks she needs to re-prioritize. She is out of balance. He wants his wife back. After all . . .” God. Family. Then work.”

There are 100 stories. You probably know a few.

Listen . . . there is no such thing as balance. It is a lie. Don’t buy it.

There is no balance. Just seasons.

If you want to do something spectacular and wise for your kids, talk as a family about seasons.

Sometimes, responsibilities will require mom and dad to work extremely hard. Sometimes, this work will cause them to be distracted for a bit. Sometimes they won’t be around right at 5:30.

Sometimes, emergencies happen. Beyond our control. And they need to be attended to. And it may mean we miss a game.

Sometimes, because we love people and care about them, there may be someone who needs our help really badly. We didn’t plan on it, it just happened that way. And it might be best for us to attend to that need. And it may cause us to postpone a promise.

Sometimes, mom and dad will dream something big to heal the world. They will make a choice to follow that dream. They have an idea to invest in the community or go on a mission trip or do something that helps others. They don’t “have” to. They want to. And, following that dream will cost. Something will have to give.

Sometimes, you will have a desire to go back to school, start a side job, take up a hobby, join a club, etc. If you decide to do it, someone will have to take up the slack.

Instead of God first, family second, and work third, let’s have a new barometer:

“God in everything. Through every season.”

Sometimes, you will need to tell your family that there are things that are demanding your attention. Explain why. Bring them in on the conversation. Pray together.

Sometimes, you will need to talk with your spouse and explain the dream in your head. Invite them to dream with you. Be honest. Explain that you know what it will cost them.

And this is important: talk about what it looks like on the other side. Most stress about seasons comes from not talking about it ahead of time, giving no warning, not sharing your intentions, not sharing the stress together and not talking about an escape plan. Or vacation. Or what rest looks like when it all dies down.

Sometimes, you will have to fight to spend time with your family. You will need to tell your boss, “Enough is enough.” Do so with grace and respect and with a reliance on the Holy Spirit and wisdom of close friends.

You WILL be out of balance.

Seasons. Understand them. Talk about them. Talk through them. Work through them together.

This is not a post in support of Workaholism. Not even close. If you think you have a problem, talk to someone. Stop the madness. A couple of years ago I blogged about Workaholism. If you are interested in reading that go here

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