We are all ‘unbalanced’

I love the story of Elijah when he is so fed up, exhausted and miserable that he says to God that he just wants to lie down and die (1 Kings 19). He has reason to feel thus. He has just done prolonged battle with the priests of Baal and been on a physical, emotional and spiritual high. He is bound to have a very human reaction of feeling overwhelmed by exhaustion and depression, and he does. This is what happens when we become for a brief time, unbalanced in the way we live.

One of the big complaints people have is that there is a lack of balance in their lives. We talk all the time of life/work balance. Many of us know we do not take enough exercise, eat the right food and waste our leisure time doing non-life enhancing things. We long for balance in our lives, the sort of equilibrium that we imagine should be / could be normal if only we got some kind of rhythm and discipline into our days. Perhaps this is why there is a growing interest in new monasticism. We imagine that the timetabled life of the religious is better balanced. But St Benedict, the founder of classic monasticism found he had to get up in the middle of the night if he wanted to have any personal prayer time. He was just too busy dealing with all the problems of his community to find time during the day.

I think that the balanced life is a myth. It certainly isn’t something Jesus preached. He didn’t say the kingdom of God is mercy, justice, peace and balance. Jesus’ own life was a constant balancing act of trying to find time to be alone with his Father, from whom he was resourced, amidst the demands of a very busy schedule. His days I am sure were planned but Jesus always had to be prepared for the unexpected. If Jesus seems to have been able to stay internally in balance whatever came towards him, it will be because he took time out and centred himself by his relationship with his Father. He tried to teach his disciples to do the same.

Our lives have times of intense, sometimes overwhelming activity, which may lead to stress and tiredness. Life does throw ‘wobbles’ at us, some of which are very serious and take a long time to come to terms with. All this is normal and we are not supposed to be able to cope endlessly. We have to stop and recognise we need rest.

But out of such times also come all sorts of insights and growth. We are told that a certain amount of stress in our lives is essential for creativity and emotional health. Indeed, you could not walk if you did not throw yourself out of balance momentarily with every step you took. The kingdom of God is justice, mercy and peace. We might find more peace if we stopped putting impossible demands on ourselves by seeking for a balanced life but simply accepted that moving in and out of balance is how life is. Like Jesus, we need to find what will give us stability when life inevitably throws something at us. Like Jesus, we will probably find the only answer to that is a closer walk with God, especially when it all gets too much.