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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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The myth of the balanced life

Christ's word is a word of hope, not of self-help

Got some New Year’s resolutions? Did you receive any self-help books for Christmas from people who know your good intentions to gain control of your life again? Have any of your New Year’s resolutions included something like “I want to get organized and be more ‘balanced’ in my life”?

A balanced life? We all long for it, of course. Young families identify values and try to live them out by setting in motion a concrete plan to eat better, exercise more, spend more time with the children. Trying to balance all of that is exhausting in the best of times. And if something happens to upset the plan, if a child is sick, for example, you stop everything to take care of the child. There is no such thing as a balanced life. I believe it’s a myth.

In fact, most of us live in many communities—our work, our children’s schools, our congregation, our neighborhood. And pieces of us are scattered in each one of them, so we never feel quite whole in any one or known by anyone else in them.

We tend not to live centered lives but lives defined by others and the communities we live in. When we add the external expectations that come at us through media and multiple technologies, the books we read, and our daily encounters with friends who are all prone to try to give us advice, life feels like a runaway train. We run a fast-track pace trying to keep up with it all, keep it all under control. We don’t need more good advice, however. We need good news. It’s natural for us to want to save ourselves, to take back control of our time and relationships, to get organized in order that everything that really does give us life might happen.


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