Balance vs. Rhythm

Written by: Nathan Hill

There seems to be a new buzzword finding its way into the conversations of young families these days (and older families too I am sure): balance. Life is busy, but we must achieve a perfect balance of all activities—work, kids, marriage, faith, recreation—in order to reap the maximum benefit from life and to live in the most holistic and healthy way. And so we set off to create the perfect schedule for life that has slots for everything that we need to do. Personally, I love this planning process—spreadsheets, numbers, organization, they are my thing. It’s the implementation of that process that gets a little murky in my life.

You see, the enemy of balance is those pesky little things that do not have a finite category but still take up time in our lives. The computer crashes during the very hour that I have scheduled to do the family finances—I get the computer working again but then I have to rob time from TV night with Mandy to do what I was supposed to do earlier. Or, our son gets sick and throws up all over me and our bed in the middle of the night, and so my plan to get up at 5AM to go for a jog is thwarted because I was up from 2AM–3AM cleaning barf out of my hair, his hair, his bed, my bed…and so on. Maybe I’m extra tired, maybe I have a headache, maybe I just want to sit down and do nothing, maybe I had to work late, maybe I got a flat tire—these things really mess with my perfectly balanced schedule and sometimes throw things into a real tailspin.

The antidote to all of this is to build more time slots into the balanced schedule of life that will accommodate these sporadic events. Yet, once I do this, my attempt to live a simple balanced life becomes really really complicated.

I have been reading a book for the past two years by Mark Buchanan (a Canadian pastor from the West Coast) called Spiritual Rhythm. I have been reading it for two years because I want to soak up everything it says, and so I have seasons and spurts where I read and seasons and spurts where I reflect on what I have read. If you have been shaking your head in agreement with anything I have written here so far, you’re gonna love this—Mark Buchanan encourages us to avoid balance and embrace rhythm. Life is always going to be tilted in one direction or another, toward one thing or another, and so its insane to fight the tilt and attempt to restore balance. Rather, a better way to live is to lean into the tilt and find out where the tilt intersects with what the kingdom of God is doing in your life at the moment.

Sounds inspiring, right? But what does it mean in practical terms! What in your life seems to be demanding the most time at the present moment? Is it your marriage, your kids, your job, your church, your health, your finances…the list could go on. Whatever it is, lean into it and find out what God is trying to do in you and through you in this tilt. Rest assured that the tilt will change as sure as the seasons change, and something else that life throws your way will make you tilt in a new direction before long.

I cannot say that I have this all figured out, but this message seems to resonate with me. I’ve always been a little inconsistent with things in life. I have a tendency to run with motivation when it is there in the moment and to become excited about a new path or activity when it presents itself. While there are things that cannot afford significant inconsistency (like paying bills or telling your wife you love her) I think that Mark Buchanan is really on to something here. Recently I have been thinking more about the rhythm of the season than the balance of my entire life. And so, I would encourage you all to do the same and see if this help you escape the untenable trap of constantly seeking that perfect, elusive balanced life.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.