Losing Our Balance
I watched my favourite author give a lecture yesterday. As a full-time writer (wow, what beautiful words), he has the luxury of writing for eight hours a day. Eight solid, stunning, glorious, magnificent hours a day.
He could have covered any number of topics in that first lecture. Writing brilliant plot. Crafting stunning characters. Pacing one's writing. Querying. Instead of the nuts and bolts of writer's craft, though, he focused predominantly on the idea of balance—striking a healthy equilibrium between the writing life and real life.
For our purposes, let's add spiritual life to that mix.
It is true that writers often carry multiple worlds in their heads, and while we never actually lose our sense of reality (that is a common misconception), it can be difficult to keep those other worlds from demanding our attention at the wrong times or too much of the time. Sometimes I catch myself plotting my novel while I'm on my knees beside my bed. Sometimes I hear conversations between my characters when I should be hearing a sermon from the pulpit. I'm not proud of that, and it's something I do my best to fight. When my writing mind starts to bleed into my spiritual life, I know that something is out of balance.
Balance, though, is not a concept that applies only to writers.
Think about your average day. Try to sort your time into categories. [Work, school, family, entertainment, writing, Jesus] are probably the biggest six in my life, in no particular order. All of these are good in their proper places and doses, and balance does not mean taking them all in equal amounts: it requires discernment to decide how much time to dedicate to the different aspects of our lives here on earth. Striking that balance requires discipline, wisdom, and the honesty to look ourselves in the eye and know when something in our lives has fallen out of whack.
Brandon Sanderson recommends boundaries, and as a gal who likes having a framework to follow, I'm going to go ahead and second that. One of my biggest struggles is letting useless time—mainly entertainment or relaxation time—eat away at my Jesus time because, hey, I had a long day or I need to unwind or I deserve it. It's a work in progress, but boundaries can be a solid first step, depending on what works for you. For example, I haven't allowed myself to kick my feet up and watch T.V. until after eight o'clock for the past few months, and it not only makes for greater productivity but limits how much time I can waste per day.
If blocking out your time helps you to use it more wisely, that is amazing. Find a healthy routine—one that places Christ in the Prime Time slot and everything else in its proper place—and stick to it. But putting time in neat little boxes doesn't absolve us of the responsibility to be discerning. We must always be on the lookout for signs that life is out of balance; we must always be seeking a deeper relationship with God so that we hunger for more and more time with Him. We must always be willing to make changes when something isn't working. The goal is not maximum productivity but maximum holiness, and sometimes that means giving things up to give Christ more.
Ephesians 5:10-11 says, "Carefully determine what pleases the LORD. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them." When I read these verses, I couldn't help but zoom in on the word "worthless." It's easy to think that just because we don't do anything innately sinful with our time, we must be doing swimmingly. But how much of our time is spent on "worthless" things? A disproportionate amount? A spiritually deadening amount? Could we give it up if Jesus asked it of us?
These are questions only you can answer for yourself, and only I can answer for myself. It's uncomfortable. It's personal. It's incredibly important. A balanced life does not mean doing everything we want and slipping Christ in there somewhere, where we can fit him—it means a lot of Jesus, less of everything else, and the least of things that don't bring us closer to him.