There is something mind numbingly tedious about the word ‘balance’. It is often hoisted up as the pinnacle of all correctness which absolutely must be achieved if we are to enjoy a peaceful and harmonious existence. My problem with this is that I don’t want to just exist…I want to LIVE!! I find that ‘balance’ kills creativity, stifles life and induces apathy.
A far more helpful word than ‘balance’ is ‘rhythm’. This is all about creating seasons of work and rest. Sometimes, life goes at 100 miles per hour. There are deadlines to meet, expectations to fulfil, responsibilities to honour, meetings to attend and about a million other things to do. Frankly, the last thing you can do in the midst of all this is to suddenly stop and then force your way into the middle ground of stillness. That’s just not how life works. Sure, the theory of this is great – but the practicality isn’t. The unrealness of it actually adds unnecessary stress and ends up doing more harm than good.
However, thinking in terms of ‘rhythm’ is altogether better. It takes away the guilt you might feel when you’re in a season of busyness, whilst at the same time helping keep you disciplined and intentional about creating space for rest and play in your life. That latter is incredibly important, and is something that needs to be part of the beat in our seasonal rhythms.
Have you ever seen one of those big old grandfather clocks? The pendulum swings from one side to the other, maintaining momentum and keeping perfect timing. If the pendulum is balanced in the middle, it may give off the impression of quiet serenity….but that’s simply because the clock is not working! It’s utterly useless without movement. That’s exactly why it’s far better to create rhythms in our lives where the pendulum swings back and forth from relentlessness to rest, from pressure to peace, from chaos to calmness, from busyness to breathing space. Wise people work hard to create healthy rhythms that ease into one another. This is far more helpful than the monotony of ‘balance’.
Here are some really great words from Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30 (the message translation). “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Forget balance. Think rhythm.
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A wise man once observed that there is ‘nothing new under the sun’. Yet in a world of creativity, this is an often dismissed notion.
The idea of being ‘original’ can easily develop into an unhealthy obsession. It’s a concept which asks a myriad of questions such as: How can I be different? How can I be unique? How can I carve out my very own identity? How can I stand out from the crowd?
However, whilst it’s good to be innovative, I personally find the concept of striving for originality unhelpful and uninspiring. For me, it turns the creative process into an unenjoyable competition which is largely based on egotism, arrogance and oneupmanship. Ironically, what often emerges from it are deluded notions of originality which aren’t new or original at all. In the process, genuine creativity becomes stifled & worn out by the weariness of a seemingly never-ending journey to be the stand-out first.
A far more helpful reflection revolves around the idea of staying fresh rather than striving to be original. This is healthier and more conducive to relevance and longevity. The question ‘how can I stay fresh?’ is so very simple, yet incredibly profound. It views change as objective rather than abstract. It’s not about re-inventing the wheel but rather replacing the tyre on the current one so it can stay on the road! Essentially, it asks ‘how can I be a better me?’
Ultimately, freshness is a state of heart and mind. It happens in an environment that is curious to learn and hungry to grow. It develops when serving others but turns stale in a cesspit of selfishness. It is stimulated by purpose but gets suffocated by aimlessness.
Whatever season you’re going through in your life, resist the temptation to struggle for originality. As noble as it might sound, in the end, it tends to feed our insecurities and leads to irrelevance. Staying fresh is a much healthier way to live. This is about working on your heart.
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I once heard an old composer advise a group of young musicians to resist the temptation of learning multiple instruments. His reasoning was that it is better to excel at mastering one than be average at playing many. He was right. Genius is found in focused simplicity, not general complexity.
Doing too many things in life can lull us into a false sense of achievement. The reality is that as noble as our efforts may be, the multiplicity of tasks can often end up bearing little or no fruit. That’s why it’s important to simplify your life, taking time to reflect on what really matters so you can keep ‘the main thing the main thing’. This is true of us as individuals. It’s also true of church.
In my own life & leadership, I’m constantly assessing why I do what I do. It can be so easy to get involved in a myriad of projects which are all honourable and important. Virtually every day, I receive an email or advert about some crucial project which I should support. But the truth is that if I were to involve myself in all of them, then I’d become distracted from what I’m really meant to be doing! So here’s the key question: what has God called me to do?
Staying true to purpose needs courage and conviction. This will probably lead to misunderstanding at times and there’s not much you can do about that other than to stay gracious. But it’s crucially important to streamline and simplify. Here are two words that I find helpful in my own reflections:
This is about honestly laying out your life and asking the BIG questions: Whose agenda am I living for? Am I furthering God’s purpose? Is this helping to build God’s house? If not, why not? What do I need to say ‘no’ to? What do I need to prioritise more? What needs to stop? What needs to go? What needs to get better?
This is about the ‘how’ of making changes so that you simplify and align your life with purpose: How do I need to change things in order to remain true to purpose? How do I need to re-prioritise my time? How will I say ‘no’ to noble distractions? How will I maintain my focus to build God’s house? How will I protect myself from becoming overloaded with tasks?
As a regular exercise, it’s wise to take time to look at how you can simplify your life so you are living for what really matters – God’s purpose. This is all we have time to live for.