I have been working with my wife on achieving balance in my life. I owe her a huge debt of gratitude for everything she is and everything she does for me. Besides being the love of my life, she is my trusted sounding board for all of my crazy ideas. She gives me great feedback and has learned when to push and when to give space.
She is not shy about pointing out that I have a problem in finding work/life balance. The question I haven’t figured out is Why? I guess I’ll have to leave that to my betters (although without understanding why, I feel that I lack the appropriate tool to analyze what is really going on with me.).
In his material, Neil Anderson has expressed the basic human needs as identity, significance, acceptance and security. I’m sure that a key is in there somewhere. A job can can give the illusion of meeting these needs, especially in areas where we have worked hard to gain expertise and are valued and complimented on successes. Perhaps it is OK to say that a job does cover some of the ground in meeting these needs. If your work place makes you feel insignificant and anonymous, insecure and disconnected to yourself and your passion; it’s time to move on.
Part of the problem is this: I don’t usually feel as if my life is out of balance. I chalk it up to working in a demanding area. One can admit there is a problem – the evidence is there, your most trusted friend confirms it – but you don’t live in a constant awareness of it, so you easily fall back into your habitual patterns.
I know I’m not alone. What to do?
Here’s my work in progress with the hope that it helps others:
First, I have to listen to the companion God gave me. If my wife says I’m working too much, she’s right. Now, I have to figure out how to set appropriate boundaries. I try to keep in mind the excellent advice I heard from my friend and author, Dondi Scumaci. Dondi points out that we don’t really have a problem saying no, we just say it to the wrong people (hint: our families). We need to turn that around. Saying yes to one thing is saying no to another. This is so important. My daughter will turn 23 this year. Time moves way too fast.
Second, I need to turn off the mobile devices. Nothing drives my wife crazier than me being on the phone when we are together (Particularly with the job, during my vacation or on a day off. Imagine that.) I admit to lacking will-power. I have begun to leave my phone at home when we are together. Not everyone’s emergency can be my emergency if I am going to find the right balance. I am available to my job almost all the time. I have to learn to be OK with not being available sometimes.
Third, I cannot allow my ministry to become a mistress to my marriage. (Please forgive my male-gender language here. Although, I trust female readers will feel the force of this point even with these terms.) A mistress has an emotional hold on a person and can summon them at any hour, even call them out of bed at night. My marriage must hold a place of priority that cannot be interfered with by the needs of others. Emergencies should be the exception, not the rule. There is an emotional fondness and attachment that only belongs to your spouse. Be aware of an emerging pattern of misplaced priority. It is not fair to our families for them to feel that the church is “the other woman” keeping us from coming home and taking all of our best time, energy, and attention.
Fourth, I must make sure my needs are met through my relationship with God and not at the expense of other people. A friend recently described these times using the analogy of manna – gathering daily what you need, and allowing it to bring refreshing in moments throughout the day. I am a clumsy practitioner of contemplative prayer. I value my time of solitude and rest in His presence, although I’m ashamed of my lack of discipline. Though I do make time for a morning embrace with my Father before I leave the house, I’m not really a morning person. I take comfort in the creation account which records that God met with Adam in the cool of the evening (which, of course, is the beginning of the Jewish day, or more correctly, the Genesis day.) I prefer that time table.
So there you have it. Not earth-shattering I’m sure, but a push in the right direction. To all my married tech friends, I really hope I have emphasized your need to listen to your spouse when it comes to your time.
I leave you with this thought: when you lose your balance, that’s when you fall. I understand there is work involved in gathering our daily manna. It’s not easy, but have faith. As we rest in God, He will meet our needs in a deep soul-satifying way that will equip us to find the right balance that provides for our families and the ministries He has called us to.