This past three days Nicky and I (and the rest of the staff) have been on a staff retreat. It was a time to rest, hang out with the staff of the church outside of the church, and get some recharging words from those that spoke at the retreat. What I am about to share is just one of the takeaways that I had from those words and how it absolutely can impact you, your family, and those you lead.
So most of you know that I am a doer. I like to get things done. And often times that can usurp other things in my life that really ought to take priority. Those things are typically things that would charge me and better prepare me to keep doing the things my doer side needs to keep doing. For instance, writing. I love to write! (Duh!). Writing is both an outlet and an inlet for me. Not only is it therapeutic for me, but it is absolutely recharging as it is a way that God speaks to me.
But to write, I have to stop doing, and, well, write!
There exists a tension between these two. I know that there are things I need to do. And I know that there are things that I want to do that I know will charge me. Somedays I am more one sided than the other. Balance is something that I find elusive and in fact I believe is a fallacy. Hang with me…
For two things to be in balance in means that they are equally distributed in weight and that the point in the middle is the balancing point. I don’t know about your lives, but there is nothing in my life that is like that! Some days I am more pulled in one direction while other days in a totally different direction. Some days I am Mr. Dad and hanging out with the kids at home, goofing around or whatever. Other days I am Mr. Serious and getting work done. There is not one day that I can recall that I did an amount of both that was distributed equally. Maybe I’m missing something, but I see it more like living within the tension of two things. Some days require that I be more of something else or do more of something else, while other days don’t require as much, but rather other items need my attention. Therefore it is not so much finding balance, but understanding and accepting the fact that I am living within the tension of two things. This can be work and home, work and play, time spent doing and time spent with Jesus.
The key, then, is learning to thrive within the tension.
The word thrive means to vigorously develop! It’s not a passive term but one that is active and full of life! It means that within the tension of two things in competition for you, you recognize that tension, call it what it is, and discern what is the good part that will cause you to thrive. This does not mean that you always get to do exactly what you want. Sometimes you have to do the “Have To’s” so that you can do the “Want To’s”. Even “Have To’s” can cause you to thrive when this tension is realized.
This is not so easily done, but takes practice to be able to recognize it.
Mary and Martha
Mary and Martha are a great example in Scripture. The story can be found in Luke 10:38-42 but I’ll briefly tell it here. Jesus comes to these two sister’s home. Mary sits and Jesus’ feet, listening to him, spending time with him. Martha is busy with all sorts of preparations for the guests in the house. Martha comes out and complains to Jesus that Mary isn’t pulling her weight. Jesus replies that Martha is worried and bothered by many things, but that in that moment, only one thing was necessary, and Mary had chosen that good part.
Now I need to clarify something here. Martha doing things was not wrong. Some of us are more Mary. Others, more Martha. We each have a little bit of each in us. Jesus was not saying let the work go to the wayside. He was simply saying that there was a time and place for just being with Jesus and a time and place for getting things done. And in that moment, it was a time and place to just be with Him. Jesus is not excusing laziness. Mary wasn’t lazy. And Martha wasn’t insensitive. They were two ends of a spectrum and Jesus uses it as a teaching moment.
There is tension between so much that is in our lives. There are multiple things that can be pulling for our attention. Let me just say that for the believer, God is always present. But we are not. Sometimes we forget God is always present and we miss an opportunity. And to thrive within the tension requires that we are aware of God’s presence in us.
To thrive within the tension means that we say no when we might want to say yes. It also means we say yes when we might want to say no. Am I confusing you yet? I know…I’m confusing myself! Here is where discernment comes in. The word discernment means to judge well and then decide based on that judgment. I cannot do that without the Holy Spirit. I am so utterly dependent upon Him and His guidance in my life! Some days, to thrive in the tension means I am constantly asking for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Other days, I can see more clearly what it is that I ought to be doing. It is knowing that I am going to have to be flexible sometimes and at other times, sticking to my guns. This is all relative to each circumstance so it is really hard to give you “do these three things” sort of post.
What I can say is that you are not going to get it right every time. So…Don’t beat yourself up. The enemy does that enough already! Instead rejoice that you can learn from that opportunity and adjust. The idea is not balance, but thriving in the tension.
I am not advocating living for the moment every day and saying goodbye to schedules and calendars. God definitely is not a God of disorder! Just look at the organization of the Bible or the Creation Story. Or how our bodies are made. What I am advocating for is discovering the place at which you and your family do not feel as though you are being pulled, but that you are making conscious decisions and discernments within the tension of two competing items. And when you do that successfully, you thrive within the tension!
As I finish this post, I’m thinking back to the staff retreat and what I learned. I am thankful that God is so patient with me because I certainly don’t get this right every time. There are days that God is throwing every obstacle in front of me to get me to stop and notice that I am too one sided. Instead of slapping me around (which I think He needs to do every once in a while) He gently leads me into a place that I thrive within the tension. And that is a great place to be! Let’s strive to be there together!