Dispelling the Myth of Work-Life Balance
Family and work can’t be balanced. The good news is that it’s not supposed to be. You heard me. It’s not in the Bible. Not one time in Scripture are you and I encouraged to live “balanced” lives.
You know why? For one reason: Life CAN’T be balanced! If it could be balanced, Jesus would’ve at least gotten it done, right? Does it surprise you to know that Jesus didn’t balance family and work well?
Rather, Jesus saw His priorities to family and work as equal “rhythms” that demanded ALL of His attention at a given point, rather than two competing loyalties that must be balanced at a given point. Here are some examples:
• When Jesus was 12 years old, He disappeared from His mom and dad and went to the Temple. When His mother found him and chastised Him, what did He say? “I must be about my Father’s business.” In other words, “Mom, right now, the most important thing I could be doing is learning to do what God has called me to do.”
• Jesus also didn’t have the typical mantra: “God first; family second; and work third.” I don’t know where we got that idea, but it wasn’t from the Bible. Jesus didn’t live this way. Jesus’ family was NOT ALWAYS more important than His ministry. Three Gospels record the true story that tells of a day in Jesus’ life when He is teaching great crowds and his mother and brothers show up and ask him to come home and be with them: “As Jesus was speaking to the crowd, his mother and brothers were outside, wanting to talk with him. Someone told Jesus, “’Your mother and your brothers are outside, and they want to speak to you.’” Matthew 12:46-47 (NLT). Upon hearing this request, Jesus refuses to even come to the door! Why? Because He was in the middle of His work!
• If Jesus would have valued family over work or ministry, He never would have died on the cross! Think about it.
Don’t get me wrong: Jesus highly valued relationships!
Here are some examples:
• Jesus picked 12 friends to do His ministry WITH. And He was closer to three of them more than anyone else.
• While on the cross, Jesus was very concerned with the welfare of his mother and his best friend John: “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother” (John 19:26-27 [NIV]).
• Jesus passionately loved people! So much so that He died for us!
Jesus wasn’t balanced. He lived life in rhythm. When He was supposed to be working, He gave it His all: His very life! When He was supposed to be doing life with God or people, He was fully present physically, emotionally and mentally. No one has ever been more passionate about people than Jesus. However, He didn’t just live at the whims of people, even his own family!
So what do we learn from Jesus? Wherever you are, be there. When you’re at work, be at work. Don’t be on Facebook. Don’t be on the phone every hour with your family. Be a good steward of your job! That honors God.
When you’re at home, be there! NOT on the phone; NOT on the laptop; NOT on Facebook. Be WITH your family! Be fully present: physically AND mentally! THAT honors God! THAT’S following the way of Jesus! Life in Rhythm!
Does that set you free?
Balance says that we should give equal energy and attention to everything at the same time. However, not only is this idea not possible…it’s not biblical! Take the biblical idea of Sabbath. The very word Sabbath means: “to stop or cease” something. God wants us to work six days! Work is not a curse! It doesn’t deserve our second best. It’s not a sin to go to bed exhausted every day!
However, every seventh day, God COMMANDED us to rest (in the same list of commands He COMMANDED us not to murder). Every seventh day should be an opportunity to STOP our normal routine and replenish ourselves physically and spiritually! This might challenge you, but think about this: This means that you are NOT supposed to “keep all the plates spinning”! God says to stop spinning them and let them all fall every week! I love that!
The greatest challenge is that most of us agree with the idea of Sabbath and believe it to be a good thing, we just don’t know how to get there! How do we work the idea of Sabbath into our life rhythms?
Here are some ways that we can build Sabbaths into our lives:
1. Take your day off.
Simple. Do you trust God enough to do life according to His pattern? The answer is either YES or NO.
2. Do all your “honey-do” lists and house-catch-up tasks on Saturdays.
Go ahead and work hard around the house if you need to. The biblical idea is just to have ONE DAY that we stop EVERYTHING.
3. Honor the LORD on the Sabbath.
Go to church. Worship Him. Serve Him. Give to Him. God knows what’s best for us. God refreshes us through His people, His worship and His Word. Be faithful to church! Stop making excuses!
4. Take your vacation time.
All of it. Don’t feel guilty about it. Don’t answer your cell phone. That’s what voicemail is for. Set up your voicemail to say: “I’m on vacation. I need the rest from work, so I will only be returning phone calls this week that have the word ‘emergency’ in them.”
5. Tell your kids they can do one to two seasonal sports.
That’s it. Train them to rest. Train them to do one to two things, rather than allowing them to try to do everything!
6. Have some YOU and GOD time.
Find the quietest part of your day EVERY DAY and BE STILL AND KNOW THAT HE IS GOD. Take some time to read God’s Word and pray! No, you won’t get quite as much done if you stop for 30 minutes and do nothing. But, you’ll be reminded again that YOU DON’T HAVE TO GET EVERYTHING DONE!
How do YOU rest? What are the steps YOU need to take to rest? Which of these are the toughest for you?
Shawn Lovejoy is the Founder & CEO of CourageToLead.com a coaching ministry for leaders. He loves coaching leaders through what keeps them awake at night. CourageToLead employs multiple coaches all over the U.S to work one-on-one with leaders and ministries. Shawn’s new book for leaders, Be Mean About the Vision: Preserving and Protecting What Matters, released in April 2016. Shawn lives in Birmingham, Ala., with his wife, Tricia, and their three kids Hannah, Madison and Paul.