The myth of balance
Written by Rhiannon Beaumont
Balance is not my M.O.
For a start, I talk a lot. I mean, a lot. About anything and everything. I’m a passionate, ‘gutsy’ person. If I open a bag of chocolates, I eat the lot. I’m committed to the cause, I could never bail (seriously who has ever used the reseal part of a bag of chocolates?). ‘Measured’ has never really been my thing.
This approach to life served me well in my early 20s. I achieved a fair amount of things, crammed loads into life and had a lot of fun doing it. Then I was thrown into the world of being a junior doctor with all the shifts, exams and numerous different training jobs that came with it, as well as being newly married and in church leadership. More and more I’d hear people telling me that I needed more balance in my life.
I’m guessing some of you can relate. Most of us are juggling many balls. We are heavy with different responsibilities, be that being a friend, a colleague, a sister or a mentor, to name but a few. Add to this the increasing cultural pressure of trying to ensure that every moment in life is memory-worthy, it’s no wonder we are overwhelmed. Balance is surely the answer to everything and so pour time and energy into trying to find it. Yet, for me balance has always been just out of reach, that illusive holy grail.
I was feeling weary. Life had become a relentless treadmill. I felt I was missing out on things I was meant to do, because everything else got in the way. Surely this is where I just need more balance? So I gave it a go. True to form, I went all-out. I bought journals and ordered my life into neat boxes. Mondays were for administration, Tuesdays for reading, Wednesdays for chores, Thursdays for meetings, Fridays were always date nights, Saturdays for family time and Sundays for church. Then I timetable each day, carefully making sure they were balanced with God-time, family-time, work-time, down-time etc. Not content to stop there, I moved onto organising the months and the year. My life had never looked so balanced – on paper at least.
And then something came up. Nothing big, nothing dramatic, I can’t ever remember what it was, but something meant that I couldn’t stick to my ‘balance plan’. Then there were exams to sit that wouldn’t be squeezed into my timetable, friends who hadn’t read my ‘balance’ plan and needed to talk, exciting new ventures at church that needed more time than I’d allowed in my ‘balance plan’.
Maybe someone more naturally balanced than me would have said no to these things. But for me, these opportunities were part of my calling. They were doors being opened, God-moments that I couldn’t say no to and I didn’t want to. I hadn’t signed up for a routine-driven life, but one that would be marked by adventure. And I’m pretty sure adventure isn’t 9 til 5.
I realised that balance wasn’t working for me. Sound familiar?
Here’s one of the most liberating things I’ve realised: I’ll never achieve and maintain a perfectly balanced life. Why? Because life is not like that. Life ebbs and flows, life follows a rhythm, not a timetable. There’s an intense time of sowing, a full-on time of reaping, but there’s also a quiet time where the seed lies dormant.
When we strive for balance, we kick against the rhythm of life and try and impose our boundaries and plans on it. And it’s exhausting. It’s like swimming against the tide; we tire quickly, people become tasks, joy turns to cynicism and our productivity nose-dives. We think small-scale, limiting God-moments to slots on a diary-page. We ask God to act within the confines of our ‘balance plan’ and are disappointed when he doesn’t.
God offers us an alternative way. We can choose to lean into the rhythms God has for us. When we do, life becomes so much easier. It’s like swimming with the tide. We harness the energy of the waves to carry us forward, rather than waste our energy swimming the other way. We achieve more without sacrificing our peace, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
God’s rhythms are bigger, broader and more expansive than our ‘balance’. He sees further than you or I do. He sees your whole life, not just your diary for next week. He has times of intensity, times of reaping but also times to lay fallow and times of growth. He cares about you, your health, your family, your job and anything else on your to-do list, more than you ever will. His cause is huge and all-encompassing; the purpose you are called for is significant. He is cheering you on to make a difference, to leave the world a better place.
When we tune into the rhythm God has for our lives, rather than the balanced approach we try to impose, life is just better. We are more graced for the task at hand, we find people by us to help and we find joy. He won’t let us burn-out. There is rest for us, but there’s also more for us: there’s a purpose and there’s a calling – And I don’t want us to miss it.
Rhiannon has been actively involved in church as long as she can remember, from toilet cleaning to preaching. She lives in Cambridge with her husband, Si and their one year old daughter, Brooke.
She is a pastor at Cambridge Community Church (C3) where her main responsibilities are overseeing 0s-30s ministry and the Journey Leadership Academy.
She’s an avid reader, foodie and passionate declutterer!