Snowflakes waltzed on the trodden lawn like tufts of cotton grass bobbing on a summer morning. I remembered summer with all its life and possibility, and the season we’d settled into felt more like a sterile waiting room where everyone just stared at the walls and prayed for our names to be called.
Sometimes it’s all you can do not to put every last ounce of hope in the day when the season finally shifts. With all your heart you want to put your hope in something bigger than your circumstances – Someone bigger than your circumstances – but this is no easy feat when all you can think about is your daily survival and how in the world you’re going to get up and do it all again tomorrow.
Life felt ridiculously out of balance for me that winter.
A weekly routine once filled with dozens of gratifying and pleasantly varied tasks was suddenly replaced by what felt like one all-consuming task that drained me of every ounce of energy.
It was as if the twenty equally filled buckets of my life were suddenly empty, and I was called to pour everything I had into one prevailing, overflowing bucket that dominated the realm of my daily existence.
The Myth about a Balanced Life
Maybe you’ve been here. Maybe you’ve worked and worried about orchestrating a balanced life, and despite your best efforts, half of your buckets are running on empty while very few are filled to the brim – wearing you out as you try to carry them from one place to the next.
It might be a season of extreme exertion in your career, your marriage, or a family member who needs you every twenty-seven seconds.
It might be that poured out season of raising young children – when certain friends discuss dreams and hopes over coffee, and you haven’t had ten seconds to think of anything other than what you’re going to feed them for the next meal or how the oldest child’s underwear all suddenly disappeared, and can you really wear gym shorts as underwear?
It might be a health issue that has you completely sidelined from life, and no one seems to get it.
It might feel small and unimportant, and you just can’t seem to figure out why God would ask you to put all your energy into this one overflowing bucket that seems to have very little to do with his kingdom-work or his glory.
It was during the winter of sparsely falling cotton grass seeds that a mentor reminded me that balance isn’t having twenty buckets, each filled equally. Balance is having twenty buckets, some filled to overflowing for a season and others very low and sitting in the background for a season. The key is to follow God into pouring into the buckets He is calling you to fill in this season.
It is a rare season when the buckets are each filled equally. And balance has little to do with the fullness of the buckets and everything to do with following the One who calls you pour into them.
As I stood on this truth, I was given the freedom to set aside the buckets that had brought a sense of fulfillment and even importance in past seasons. What I found was no easy road ahead of me, but there was a rich sense of purpose as I poured into that one prominent bucket.
Here are several truths to stand on if you’re struggling with an out-of-balance load today:
1. There is a cost to following Christ, and He never promised a balanced life (see Luke 9:23-26).
As much as we’d like to believe that following Christ is an invitation to an easier, smoother life, there are times when following him is the more difficult option. But let’s not lose heart. The promise is that those who follow anyway, counting the cost and committing to being all in, will receive eternal rewards when we meet him face to face (see Matthew 16:27).
2. Priorities will shift as seasons of your life change.
The buckets that overflowed when you were single and pursuing your new career will likely be very different from the buckets that overflow as you shift to the seasons of raising little ones, adjusting to an empty nest, and shifting from the calling of career to the calling that comes when you step away in the older years of your life. The key is to embrace the changing seasons, not fighting to stay in a season God has called you to leave.
3. There are times for giving all to a certain cause.
There will be times when one priority requires what feels like all of your energy and attention. While we need to be sure our priorities align with God’s plans for our lives (which always put loving God and loving others at the top of the list), there are times when we are called to give most of our energy to certain causes: elderly parents, our own newborns, the launch of new ministries, careers, and callings.
4. Balance is defined by the One you follow, not the load you carry.
When we learn to stay in step with the Spirit, his promise is to help carry the load (see Matthew 11:28-30). When we walk in step with him, his side of the yoke enables us to press on, even when life feels entirely out of balance.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Stacey Pardoe
Featured Image by Cindy Tang