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Stop Trying to Balance Your Chaotic Life. Do This Instead.

  • Name
    Frank Powell
“Don’t be a do person, be a be person. You are not a human doing, you are a human being.” —Matthew Kelly “How do I balance God and school? How do I balance God and family? How do I balance family and career?” These questions plague us. We seem to be searching hard for a balanced life, but it is nowhere to be found. Why? Why is a balanced life so elusive? Here’s the reason … balance is impossible. Not only that, balance is also chaotic and destructive. Let me explain. High-wire acts are so ridiculous I am compelled to watch every second. If some dude is crazy enough to walk between two skyscrapers on glorified dental floss, I will give him five minutes of my time. Why? I hope the man walks across safely. But, I know if he loses his balance, a close (and probably awkward) conversation with Jesus is imminent. This is the reality when it come to balance. Balancing anything, especially for an extended period of time, is difficult. It’s impossible. At some point, your strength (or focus) fails, and something hits the ground. Hard. Yet, every day we wake up and begin the journey across the glorified dental floss, hoping something unforeseen doesn’t disrupt our balance. Kids. School. Marriage. Work. Sleep. Start walking. But if we do this long enough, destruction is certain. We live in a culture where information is more accessible than ever, yet we are not any smarter. We are more connected than ever, yet we are still lonely. More tools than ever are available to increase our productivity, yet there is never enough time. As culture demands more of us, our lives fall more out of balance. So, we try harder to restore balance. And eventually we are teetering on the edge of destruction. It’s time to accept reality … the pursuit of balance is destroying our lives. There is a better way. It’s the way of God. It’s how all of creation maintains order. It’s the way of Jesus. What is this way? The way of rhythm. I am convinced that a sustainable rhythm to life is the antidote to our 21st-century culture. I know what you’re thinking. “What in the world is rhythm? And how do I establish a life of rhythm?” My hope and prayer for us moving forward is clarity. Hopefully, the words that follow will give us the framework to both understand and implement this life. It is a daunting task. A rhythmic life is so foreign to a 21st-century Westerner. But this is exactly why it so needed. We desperately need to recover a life of rhythm. It is God’s way. It is the way that creates a meaningful way. Here are eight reasons to establish a life of rhythm.

1. Rhythm creates order. Balance creates chaos.

God’s nature is one of order. So, wherever chaos is present, sin has marred God’s intended design. Every piece of creation has a unique rhythm. Oceans have tides. High. Low. They are consistent. They aren’t rushed. They always come. Always. Seasons have rhythm. The death and cold of winter give birth to the life and warmth of spring. The seasons occur at the same time every year. Days have rhythm. Light breaks through the darkness, signaling the coming of a new day. The human body has rhythm. Our hearts beat in a consistent, rhymic manner, pumping life through our bodies. Everything God created has rhythm. It is the way of God. Where rhythm is absent, chaos is present. What if we restored the natural way of life God designed for his creation? It might restore order to our lives.

2. Rhythm manages energy. Balance manages time.

“I wish I had more time. There aren’t enough hours in the day.” If we are honest, we know this to be true: The answer to our chaotic lives isn’t more time. If we had more hours, we would just waste more time. Here’s the thing about time: It’s fair to everyone. Every person gets 24 hours. No more. No less. So, the answer to life isn’t to manage something that is constant. So, what do we manage? Energy. A life of rhythm does this. It prioritizes life so that energy is maximized, not time. And this is a game-changer because energy is variable. And powerful. It can be harnessed and controlled. Those who change the world know how to focus their energy. This means sleep is important. Disconnecting from the busyness is essential. Sabbath. Prayer. Meditation. Diet. Balance is destroying our lives because it tells us to manage a constant. Rhythm, however, produces a meaningful life because it manages a variable.

3. Rhythm integrates all of our needs. Balance integrates all of our tasks.

A balanced life says there are tasks in the day, and the completion of those tasks indicates a balanced life. Rhythm says something different. A life of rhythm focuses on our needs. In his book The Life of Rhythm, Matthew Kelly says our needs fall into four categories: physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. No matter how “productive” our life appears, if we abandon our needs, we aren’t accomplishing much of anything. In a busy, task-oriented world, this message needs to be heard. A life that gives priority to those areas that deserve priority (God, family, self and others) is a life that oozes with excellence, creativity and passion. There is more to our existence than checking boxes on a to-do list, chasing the next promotion and accumulating a large bank account. God created us for something better.

4. Rhythm builds strength. Balance builds timidity.

Think about the rhythm of the ocean. It is impossible to hold the ocean back or alter its rhythm. The ocean has a quiet strength, an unmatched strength. This strength isn’t always visible. But it’s always present. The world has a common misconception about strength. It defines strength in terms of size, physicality and external power. But God shows us a different way. Jesus models strength that is rooted in self-control and resistance. His strength was impossible to hold back or defeat. A life of rhythm is the life of Jesus. It isn’t dependent upon external forces. It isn’t swayed by perceptions or expectations. It is consistent. It is controlled. And although this strength might not be visible to the world, over time it changes the world. Because it isn’t dependent on the world.

5. Rhythm is built on efficiency. Balance is built on busyness.

“How are you doing, Frank?” “Man, I am busy. How are you?” Busyness isn’t just expected in our culture. It’s championed. Rest is a sign of laziness. Look up the word “slow” in the dictionary. Synonyms include: plodding, sluggish and lead-footed. But it’s time to start asking the question, “Is our busyness leading to more fruitfulness?” I think the answer is no. A life of rhythm doesn’t try to keep up with the pace of the culture. In fact, the opposite is true. Rhythm tells us to slow down. The late Dallas Willard was once asked to describe Jesus in one word. His answer: RELAXED. What?! Of all the words one of the greatest philosophers of our generation could ascribe to Jesus, he chose “relaxed”? Relaxed sounds too much like slow to me. But maybe Dallas Willard has touched on something profound. Look at the life of Jesus. He was never hurried. He never seemed overwhelmed. In a few years, Jesus accomplished what none of us have … he changed the world. The world doesn’t need busier people. The world needs more efficient people.

6. Rhythm focuses on who you are becoming. Balance focuses on what you are doing.

A life of balance doesn’t have time to consider who we are becoming. It’s all about doing. This is why a balanced life is a dangerous life. There is no space to ask the deeper questions. “Why am I here? What is my purpose? Where am I going? What is my identity?” These questions are the essence of rhythm. Rhythm says it is more important that we model the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) than become CEO. Rhythm says the desires of our heart are more valuable than the achievements in our life. Rhythm says it more important to increase in gratitude, love and selflessness than wealth, trinkets and followings.
A life focused on who we are becoming produces meaning and impact. This lifestyle is desperately needed in a culture bathed with purposelessness.

7. Rhythm sees time through the lens of opportunity. Balance sees time through the lens of hours, minutes and seconds.

The Bible details two different ways to view time. One is chronos. This is the traditional way of viewing time. It is time in terms of days, hours, etc. A balanced life sees time this way. Every hour is important because every task needs to be completed. The second way to see time is through the lens of opportunity. This is called kairos. Kairos doesn’t look at the world through an hourglass or a time clock. This type of time teaches us to look for opportunities and take advantage of them. Kairos is the foundation for a life of rhythm. It is God’s dimension of time. Every second isn’t created equal. Great leaders understand this. Yes, every second shapes our life. But only a handful of moments define our journey. Rhythm looks for opportunities to peek around the corner at eternity. Those opportunities can be anywhere. Work. Store. Church. Coffee shop. And when they come, rhythm gives us space to step into them. A meaningful life isn’t found by viewing life through a time clock. It is found by viewing life through God’s clock. A clock marked by anticipation and opportunities, not minutes and hours.

8. Rhythm makes us givers. Balance makes us takers.

If you had one word to describe God, what word would you use? Love? Mercy? Holy? All of those describe God. Fair enough. But I want to propose another word … GIVER. We can debate whether or not this is the definitive characteristic of God. But in a gluttonous culture of habitual takers (of which I am the worst), I don’t believe there is a more valuable quality to understand and model. God always gives. Always. He never takes. Not from creation. Not from humans. And here’s the thing about God. He always gives, and he is never in need. Take this statement to the bank: The degree to which you give is the degree to which your life will have meaning. Give of your time. Give of your talents. Give of your resources. Every day. Do this and you will impact the world. A life of balance makes us takers. It happens slowly. But it happens. Balance draws us into finishing tasks and maintaining equilibrium. Our bank accounts are never satisfied. Our accomplishments are never enough. And our lives are never content. But rhythm creates contentment because rhythm is the way of God. Could it be that anxiety, depression and discontent plague our culture because we are consumed with a lifestyle of taking instead of giving? Humans are unique because we are the only ones in all of God’s creation who can choose to say no to rhythm. Yet I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we seem to be the only ones creating more chaos instead of more order. We are the only ones that appear discontent and frantic. It’s time to restore God’s way, the way of rhythm. It is a strange blend of rest, activity and pace. But this strange lifestyle is exactly what a chaotic, frantic, hurried, busy, restless and anxious culture needs.