A Battle for Balance – or the Freedom of Fruitfulness? - Dalene Reyburn (5 minute read)
I eat fruit most days for breakfast, to get an early start on my Daily Five because adulting is hard and a balanced diet helps.
Yet, I don’t much like the idea of a balanced life.
A balanced life sounds mediocre. It sounds like a good-enough spread of bustlings and doings, so I can say I filled my hours on Earth by dishing up a bit of this and a bit of that.
(Except, was I really satisfied? Or effective?)
Also, a balanced life sounds like the whip of unrealistic expectations. When I scoop flour onto my kitchen scale for whatever I’m baking, I scrutinize the needle. Too much? Too little? Does the flour measure up? That very question haunts women everywhere. Do I measure up? Am I too much? Too little? Balanced?
For too long, women were oppressed and dominated. These days, for the most part, western culture’s needle measuring a woman’s worth has gone from zero to maxed out. And while it’s good and right and marvellous for women to be liberated and empowered, along with that we’ve believed the lie that we can do it all, be it all, have it all, balance it all, and win at life.
The truth is (for both men and women), while we can do anything, we can’t do everything. And certainly not everything at once, with our sanity intact.
So I’m thinking, let’s push aside the kitchen scale and reach for the fruit bowl, because God doesn’t call us to be balanced. He calls us to be fruitful.
I mean, I’ve never weighed my fruit bowl. I’ve never eyed it analytically and thought, ‘Hmm. Too much? Too little? Does it measure up?’ And if I’ve just stocked up in the fruit and veg aisle and the bowl is piled high with ripe pickings and nearly-ripe promise, it just makes me feel rich and grateful – not overwhelmed or unbalanced.
So how might fruitfulness prevail against society’s barrage of expectations to be balanced (and brilliant at it)? Is it possible for us to steady the loads of marriage, motherhood and marketplace – and still find time to meet with God?
Big fruit first
If you put the pineapples on top of the grapes in your fruit bowl, the grapes would get squashed. You’d put the big fruit in the bowl first, right?
And perhaps to be fruitful we need to discern our priorities for the season we’re in. What’s the main thing? What’s the big fruit in your bowl?
Balance of some sort – juggling the responsibilities of our various roles – will always be required of us. But it’s really ok for a patch of land to lie fallow, for greater future fruit harvests.
Like, there’ll be seasons in which your kids may need you less, which will free you up to focus more on your career.
There’ll be seasons in which your husband will need you more, which may mean saying, ‘Not now,’ to ministry opportunities.
Life is short, sure. But life is also long. There’s enough time to do God’s will. Prioritize.
Habits lead to harvest
Then, for each priority in this season, plant the seeds of habit.
Fruit grows from the inside out. There’s no stick-on quick fix. The real thing takes patience, prayer and perseverance. And tiny, daily habits germinate and grow up to look like lives hung heavy with fruit.
You’ll come up with your own rhythms and routines, but I’m happy to share some of mine. Like, I say to myself: Wife before Wi-Fi. Jesus before Gmail.
That means, at night I switch off my phone’s Wi-Fi and mobile data an hour or so before I go to sleep, so my husband knows he’s more important to me than Instagram. I don’t switch it on again until I’ve spent time with God the next morning, so I don’t wake up to the voices of newsfeeds, but rather, the Voice of truth.
I try to win the day, in my pre-coffee waking moments (once I’ve remembered my name and where I am), by turning first to Jesus. Still under the duvet – and before my phone pulls me back into texts and tweets or one of the kids can’t find socks – my thoughts sound something like this:
Take my life and let it be ever only all for Thee. Don’t let me take a single step into this day without Your presence. From the beginning to the end of this day, position me so You can maximize my life, for Your maximum glory. For every person I meet, give me words of life and wisdom.
Typed out like that, it makes me sound super spiritual, and coherent. But again, this is pre-coffee, so I’m totally relying on the Holy Spirit to make sense of my groggy, Lord-have-mercy mumblings.
Perhaps, for your ‘big fruit’ priority areas, scribble out simple habit-prayers.
Keep my heart soft towards my husband.
Remind me to look my kids in the eye.
Make me a happy, uncomplicated friend.
In my career space, help me not to add to the noise but to do the things only I can do.
For every opportunity or invitation, help me say the best yes and the best no.
Help me not to worry about food or worship it. Choose my weight; choose my plate.
Help me find ways to be active every day, to look after this one body You’ve given me.
At home, help me to keep it tidy, but also to keep it real, making space for the raucous and the resting.
Give me wisdom to budget – and then to give, save, live, enjoy, repeat.
My phone beeps a reminder once a day that reads: seven words. I try to take a moment to reset, and remind myself who I want to be for those around me. I’ve chosen seven words I hope people will use when they describe me. They already use words to describe me, so I reckon I may as well decide what I’d love those words to be – and then live them.
You don’t have to choose words. You do you. But be intentional about habitually planting small seeds of character that will take root, and bear fruit, in every facet of your life.
Jesus didn’t set us free so we could tick the boxes of a balanced life and wear our frenetic multitasking as a badge of honour.
Jesus set us free, for freedom (Galatians 5:1). And the love-response of a life lived free, is fruit (Galatians 5:22-23). Like I said, adulting can be brutal. But what makes it also beautiful is encouraging each other towards the simplicity of surrender to the God who grows our fruit, making us wise and effective, for our good and His glory.