I never cease to be amazed at the incredible paradox of seeing many unhappy people in a world that has so much to offer surprises me even more is the sight of so many Christians who have succumbed to busyness, unhappiness, tightness, and boredom. Many suffer from a nagging sense of guilt that no matter how much they do it is never quite enough.
Words like wonder, joy, rest, and freedom have become fake replicas of what Christ taught. Time becomes a tyrant instead of a friend . Joy becomes something we will do later. Play becomes something for children. … Wonder is just the name of a bread, and imagination doesn't make enough money to be worthwhile.
Tim Hansel in When I Relax, I Feel God

With those words, Tim Hansel captures the tension felt by many of us who love the church and wish to serve faithfully, but who must balance church responsibilities with our responsibities to family and career. Maintaining the balance is a constant struggle. One active church member in two-career three-child family wrote that people say to her, "I don't know how you do it!"

Her reply: "We're not sure we are doing it."

It's not only a constant struggle, but a common one as well. When LAY LEADERSHIP was in the planning stages, active people were surveyed to see what subjects they would like covered in the magazine, and 94 percent said they want to see an article on balancing church, home, and work. Whether we're single or married, whether one spouse or both work outside the home, the competing demands on our time and energy can be draining.

In our careers, we want to work hard, provide for our families, and advance as far as our abilities will take us. For many of us, there's also a marriage relationship to be kept in good repair. With our children, we want to play, to nurture, to take in the ball games and science fairs that are so important to them. And in the church, we want to be actively using the spiritual gifts we've been given to meet the needs of others.

Recognizing When We're Out of Balance

For one reason or another, we often find ourselves getting out of balance. And there are a number of ways we recognize it has happened.

Susan Wiggins, a mortgage broker active in the couples' ministry of her church, said that in her case she begins sensing personal stress and depression. When she becomes aware that her anxiety level is above normal and her mood is below par, she can usually trace it back to allowing her life to become unbalanced.

In contrast, Mel Olberg, director of development for a Christian social agency and a Sunday school teacher, said that when he gets out of balance, he tends to work himself to the point of physical exhaustion. Normally a person who can go strong late into the evening and who functions well with less than eight hours of sleep a night, Mel said, "When I've living out of balance for a while, I'll find myself falling asleep in an easy chair after dinner. I also develop a sense that I've become less productive at work and less satisfied with what I've accomplished."

For Susan Campbell, a writer who has worked in her church's food closet and Christian education programs, lack of balance shows up primarily in her family. "I find that the house falls apart, and I'm not just talking about the dust in the corners," she said. Everyone in the family is affected. The kids bicker more than usual, as do she and her husband. They stop inviting guests over. Worse, "I'm no longer glad to see my kids come home from school. I wish they had stayed longer."

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