We are now eight days into January 2019, and the freshness of the new year is already wearing off for some who are struggling to keep their newly minted resolutions untarnished by neglect . If you’re already there, take heart! I’m just getting started hashing out my resolutions and goals for 2019, so you’re way ahead of me! Hashing out seems like an unusual way to describe the setting of admirable new goals. It’s a messy, hard-work word, nothing like the shiny, idealistic goal-setting I’ve done in the past. Honestly, for the last few years, I’ve just carried over my resolution from year to year and set new small-step goals to achieve my ultimate goal: balance. Year after year I go at it from a different angle, with a new plan and fresh energy. Year after year I never get there. And year after year I feel defeated. A quote attributed to Albert Einstein comes to mind, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” That’s an uncomfortably accurate description of my past resolutions. It’s time to reconsider my goal. Why do I want balance in my life? What is it about the idea of balance that is so appealing? Is it the culture’s call for balance? After all, magazines, blogs, self-help books, and podcasts tout balance in all things. Is it my pride calling for the display of something admirable in my life? The answers to those questions remain elusive, though in some measure I should probably answer “yes” to the last two. But there is another question I cannot answer with a confident “yes.”
I have begun to wonder whether true balance is even the ideal in a Christian’s life. Does God command balance in the lives of Jesus’ followers? I have yet to find any such reference in the Bible. A quick internet search turns up numerous articles from Christian authors and publications recommending balance. But after reading them, they really seem to be encouraging a life sold-out to God, cultivating a sound mind by knowing Scripture, and taking care of our God-given responsibilities. Maybe it’s just semantics, but that sounds to me more like surrender and obedience than balance.
Balance would feel like a wonderfully secure spot for me: ordered, predictable, stress-free, and manageable. I think I would be pretty happy with myself if I ever achieved it because it’s an illusion of control. And boy, do I like control. However, to maintain said “balance” would require some rigidity and diligence. I am certainly capable of rigidity – it goes hand-in-hand with control. But how can I say, “Yes, Lord,” to God’s interruptions in my life if my focus is on maintaining the static state of balance?
A number of years ago, I heard a pastor say, in reference to the prompting of the Holy Spirit (John 3:5-7), “You haven’t lived until you have lived at the mercy of the Wind.” That stuck with me. I am learning, slowly, to be intentional with my time and energy yet alert and ready to respond to the wind of the Spirit of God. I can’t do that and maintain “balance.” I’d rather be moved by the Spirit, available to be led and used for the purposes of God. Not flighty or drifting, but responsive to His leading, praying for discernment to recognize His call, and a willing heart to say, “Yes, Lord,” when He interrupts my plans.
As I pray and plan for this new year, the idea of balance won’t be my target. I will not retool and make another run at achieving the dubious trophy of balance. The resolutions that come to mind are not achievements but character qualities: humble, obedient, intentional, mindful, available, and servant. I want to be obedient to God’s commands with a humble heart, seeking His glory, not my own. Such a goal will require intentional and sometimes hard choices about how I spend my time, my energy, and my influence. Regular evaluation and accountability are good ways to stay mindful about my goals and make needed course-corrections. And then there is that ‘available’ word. The one that puts self to death. The one that says, “Not my plans, Lord, but Yours.” The word that upsets balance for sold-out. That word needs to go on my bathroom mirror, I think. Because available is a serving word. Available implies being prepared for action at any time. Available means being ready to put my plans and desires aside when the Spirit of God calls. Available will be costly. But I am, after all, His servant. So with Mary, I say, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to Your Word.”