I've had an outdated revelation. After a decade of full time ministry and multiple church health surveys telling me that I'm running around doing too many things, I think I'm ready to embrace the hidden virtue of a balanced life. As I've been studying the concept, I've been having to dust off some forgotten vocabulary. Words like temperance, moderation and prudence are slowly making their way back into my century. If I start braking out into 'thee's' and thou's' in this post please stop me. But truthfully, I think this old virtue is a treasure chest for us in a culture that celebrates excess. The motto of my city in Lake Elsinore is 'Dream Extreme', and such are the times we live in. Who can eat the most hot dogs in an hour? Who can run the most days in a row before they need sleep? Who can give their dog the best leopard hair cut? And who can get the most views online for their unique insanity? A culture of excess leaves normal folks feeling boring, unimportant, and it leaves hard working folks abused and feeling exhausted.
Many times at the end of a hard day of ministry I've found myself at home with a sense of hollowness inside me. I had given all my words and emotions during my day of work, and by the time I got home, I had nothing helpful, nothing holy to offer to those that I love the most. I'm a walking robot, only able to fulfill the simple tasks required of me before I collapse on my pillow. And I know this isn't just a ministry issue. Many of us, especially here in our valley, commute long hours, work difficult jobs, and find ourselves feeling exhausted by the time we make it home. We are fulfilling our duties as providers for our family, and workers for the vocation that God has placed us in, but the left overs of our soul at the end of the day don't produce the righteousness of God.
Enter our friend, the forgotten virtue, balance. Church history is rich with her presence though she often goes by different names. St. Thomas Aquinas said prudence was "absolutely the principle of all virtue." And the NLT says "Anyone who fears God will avoid extremes" Eccl 7:18. One of the powers of the balanced life is that it can be such a pervasive and liberating principles in so many different areas. In the weeks ahead I will be looking at different areas of our life including family, work, rest, eating, exercise, marriage and parenting to see how the presence of balance brings greater righteousness and enjoyment. I desire this series to give practical help toward enjoying balance. Towards that end let me share with you a productivity method that has been helping me prioritize my daily tasks, and to still have energy left for my family when I get home.
This four step process is called the Ivy Lee method, and 100 years ago, it famously multiplied the productivity of Charles Schwab's organization. It is quite simple: 1. Write down the six (no more!) most important things you need to accomplish 2. Prioritize these six things 3. Work only on the most important task until you finish it. Then move on to the next most important task, in order. 4. Any tasks you don't get done get moved to your list for tomorrow. And repeat the process for each work day.
This process has kept me from treating myself like a servant that needs to accomplish 20 tasks each day, and it has also helped me prioritize some of my most important tasks. For a pastor this includes things like prayer, preparation in God's Word, connecting with God's people, and reaching out to our community. I feel less depleted at the end of the day, and better able to give to my first ministry, my family. Thank God for balance. Next time we will look at the way balance can contribute to our physical health.
Author: Cameron Lemons
Reflections from the pastor