Monday, October 1, 2012

Finding Balance

"But seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness;
and all these things shall be added unto you."
Matthew 6:33
(KJV)

I've accumulated several quotes over the years.
I don't know whom to give credit for this one,
but it is one that I have picked up somewhere down the line
and listed as one of my favorites on Homespun Devotions.
(There are several on there, if you care to visit and scroll to the bottom of the screen.)

"If you keep your nose to the grindstone rough and hold it there long enough,
you soon will say there's no such thing as a babbling brook or birds that sing;
these three things will all your life compose -
just you, the stone, and a ground down nose."

Humorous, but so true!

Working in banking for so many years
taught me that things absolutely have to balance.
At the end of the day,
when the dust settled,
after the last customer had been tended to,
there came a time of reconciliation of all of the day's activities.
The goal was for everything to end up in balance.
In essence, the ideal was to take the starting amount of cash in the teller drawer,
add all deposits and credits,
subtract all withdrawals and debits,
and find that the amount of cash left in your drawer
was equal to the magic number shown on your computer screen.
If it wasn't,
something was awry.
There had been an error....somewhere.
Something had tilted out-of-balance.
Maybe a transaction was processed twice or never processed at all,
too much or not enough cash was given to a customer,
there had been a transposition of numbers,
or a host of other possibilities.
Ultimately, something needed to be corrected to facilitate complete reconciliation.
Next came the task of digging to the bottom of it 
to see where you went wrong.
Sometimes, the out-of-balance could be found quickly.
Sometimes, it ended up taking hours.
Sometimes, it was never found at all....
and had to be written up....
and left a mystery.

Through the years, as time advanced,
and I became more experienced,
the out-of-balances were easier to spot.
I learned "tricks of the trade",
shortcuts, 
little bits of wisdom...
from both my own experience
and the very capable, experienced ones I worked with.
After I advanced into supervisory positions,
the wisdom I had gleaned made it easier to help my employees
spot their errors and areas of weakness,
and I was able to pass along the things I'd learned to them.

So much of what I learned throughout a career in banking
has proven valuable, beneficial, relevant, and applicable to a host of other areas of life.

We all need balance.
A healthy mix of work and play,
of "the grind" and time to unwind.
Too much of either can lead to disastrous results.
We've all seen the consequences of overindulgence on either side of the coin,
and neither outcome is pretty.
At the end of the day,
when things settle down,
it is important to feel that sense of balance
and know that everything is in order and reconciled the way it should be.

God wants us to live balanced lives.
None of us can do it all.
The sooner we accept that, 
the better off we...
and our families will be.

Feeling the pressure of having to juggle all of our duties,
obligations,
and commitments...
and still look like we are sane and have it all together,
can be completely overwhelming 
and place unrealistic, unattainable demands
that can never be satisfied.

There are some things that all of us need to just let go of...
in order to make room for higher quality performance 
in the tasks that are really necessary and truly important.

When we overextend ourselves,
when we take on too much,
something will suffer.
Many times, someone will suffer.
Usually, we, ourselves are one of the ones who end up short-changed...
burned out...
and jaded.
When we spread ourselves too thin,
balance will be compromised.
The sense of being off-skelter will pervade the atmosphere of our lives.
This creates stress.
There is no way around it.
There are only 24 hours in one day.
Our allotted time on earth has already been determined,
and none of us know how long that is.
To live like we are going to stay here forever,
to stay in the fast lane rushing and trying to do more than is humanly possible,
will make us old before our time
and leave us with deep-seated regrets when we look back in retrospect.

You are only one person.

Do you feel off-balance?
Like things are out of order ?
As if you are always running in circles and getting nowhere?

Jesus understood this.
He was torn this way and that,
continually being pressured by the demands of life around Him.
There was always someone wanting something from Him.
While on His way to help someone, 
He was constantly being interrupted by someone else,
His original plan interfered with.
Everywhere He turned, 
there were hungry eyes staring back at Him,
anguished hearts hidden beneath hardened exteriors,
enemies waiting with bated breath to trip Him up, find fault, condemn His every move,
envious spiritual leaders who felt threatened by His popularity,
and lost souls who needed rescued.

He handled it all.
He never came apart at the seams.
His seekers never felt they were too much for Him.

The demands you and I face, 
no matter how hectic our lives,
will never compare with His.
The carefully-organized data in our Day-Timers will
never rival the stress and continual pressure He dealt with 
every moment of His tenure on earth.

Jesus was a pure, perfect example...
in every facet of life.
The footprints He left behind are absolutely sure and safe to walk in.
He covered it all.
When He cried, 
"It is finished" from the cross...
it was all done.
Our salvation.
The atonement for every sin ever committed.
The price completely paid in full for our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual healing.
And a complete, all-encompassing example of pure perfection left behind.

Though Jesus' Father was God, 
and though He was conceived in His mother's womb by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit,
His mother was human, remember?

The element of Mary's humanity made Jesus one of us.

He had a body, a mind, and emotions...
just like you and me.
Therefore, He understands....
the full gamut of all we go through...
of every, single thing we experience...
and live out on a daily basis.

How did He do it?
How did Jesus maintain balance?
Once He began His earthly ministry,
Jesus lived in an atmosphere that was often one of turmoil,
chaos,
commotion,
and stress.

However, He never became stressed.
He dealt with it.
All of it.

I believe that if we closely examine and follow Jesus' example...
if we make it our life's practice to do what He did,
if we duplicate the practical steps He took...
 in their proper order....
you and I can achieve and live perfectly-balanced lives.

I know it sounds like a tall order...
an unattainable feat...
but, if Jesus did it,
through His strength, 
through following His pattern,
we can do it, too.

So, how did He do it?

I believe that the first and most pressingly important thing we need to learn
from Jesus' example of keeping a healthy balance in His life on earth is that
He put His time with His Father 
FIRST.
He knew He needed that...
that He must do that
in order to keep going,
so that He could maintain the demanding pace,
to BE Who He needed to be.

If He didn't keep HIMSELF in a healthy spiritual state,
how could He help anyone else?
How could He stay focused,
and enthusiastic, 
and on-target and in-tune...
with His Father's will?

He took the time to nourish His Own soul.

He made that top priority.
He went out in the early morning hours...
before the crowds were awake...
and He made certain that His daily time of renewal with His Father
was never neglected.

This was His routine.
He made it an imperative part...
and the first part...
of His day.
He enforced it...faithfully...every morning.
"And in the morning, 
rising up a great while before day, 
He went out, 
and departed into a solitary place, 
and there prayed."
Mark 1:35

This is absolutely and non-negotiably the single-most important thing we can learn 
about how to find and maintain a healthy balance in our individual lives.
This is the main key.
This is the answer.

Why would you and I hope to succeed in the area of balance
if we omit out the most pivotal element of all?

We must take care of ourselves first.

And what part of us is most important?
What component of our being is most vital?

It is our spiritual state.
Our personal walk with God.

If we are not in relationship with Almighty God,
if the intimacy of our communion with Him is not maintained,
if we neglect this key component of our being,
everything else will be out of balance.

In order to function and give peak performance,
in order to BE who we need to be...
in the course of a given day,
we must take care of our souls....first.
Before the rush of the day overwhelms.
Before the demands overtake that precious time
and we are forced to omit it altogether.

In counseling and praying with others 
I've found that the main reason for the out of balance in their lives,
usually boils down to the fact that they have neglected
the main, most important part of their composition.
It usually comes out in our talks.
Their prayer life is sporadic,
sometimes non-existent.

I think people have the idea that in order to do this...
in order to nourish their soul,
in order to have time alone with God,
they have to devote hours of their day.

God is not a hard taskmaster.
He does not make unreasonable demands of any of us.
He is more interested in quality than quantity.
He knows you have a life.
He gives it to you every day.
It doesn't take hours to find what you need at His feet.
Instead of feeling you must get up an hour earlier than usual,
why not start out with five minutes?
Why not set the alarm for five minutes earlier than you have been?
Why not make sure you give yourself that time...
with your Heavenly Father...
before everyone else in your household gets up?

Force yourself to give up that extra five minutes of sleep,
pull yourself out of bed,
and go find someplace quiet...
alone.
And talk to Him.
Listen for His voice.
Have your Bible handy.
Read one verse....just one.
Don't feel you have to read more than that.
One verse fully-absorbed and comprehended
will do more for the improvement of your spiritual life
than skimming a whole chapter with no comprehension 
of what you just read.

You'll be surprised how quickly that five minutes is up.
You'll feel sad that you don't have more time to spend.
If it works with you the same way it has worked with me,
you will do what you need to do to have more time with Him tomorrow....
so sweet will be His presence to you!
When you leave your quiet, alone spot,
you will feel good inside...
more confident...
satisfied.
You will know in your heart that no matter what else happens,
you have already done the most important thing.

God will bless your sacrifice.

You will feel balanced.
I promise.
The rest of your day will go better.
You will face the same problems,
the same aggravations,
the same frustrations,
but you will be equipped.
You will be ready.
You will feel in touch with God.
You will be fortified...and feel capable.

You won't feel the constant condemnation and nagging sense that 
you didn't do what you were supposed to do.

This, my friend, is the beginning of balance.


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