Usually this balance pointed toward acting in moderation and avoiding certain extreme behaviors that threatened the holiness of my journey.
I tried really hard to walk this tightrope path, but I was always afraid of going astray and backsliding. Both of those dangers were unthinkable, and as I learned, unavoidable.
I couldn’t stay on the path, no matter what I did. What was wrong with me? Why was my life such a failure?
I still find myself far afield from living the very words I preach, no matter how hard I try to be holy. Thankfully, I am not tabloid worthy unholy, but I feel I slide off the path more than I remain on it.
Why is it so hard?
While we are on this journey of holiness we will fall off the path. There are so many distractions and temptations to follow. And we do. The Bible is full of stories of women and men who loved God and were beloved by God yet who did the same things that make tabloid headlines today. History and contemporary experience show me that we are no different. Tragically, when that happens we look past the log in our eyes and dismiss all the good they have said or done.
What if our image of balance is the problem?
We try so hard to balance on a tightrope or on the edge of a razor or a cliff which makes our fall inevitable. With this kind of understanding, any kind of wobble in faith or practice becomes a fall from grace. It isn’t a very secure view of the journey of the Spirit.
Another, probably greater, problem with this view of balance is that we become focused on control. We have to stay righteous. We can’t doubt. We have to do all the work for our salvation. It becomes all about us.
There has to be a better way.
The Bible offers a different point of view. The promise of forgiveness and grace affirms a view of holiness that is solid and not fragile. It portrays a Spirit that holds us secure no matter how far afield we stray or how much we slide back. Grace is there to catch us and to bring us back to the arms of God.
What do you think? If someone had one hundred sheep and one of them wandered off, wouldn’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hillsides and go in search for the one that wandered off? If he finds it, I assure you that he is happier about having that one sheep than about the ninety-nine who didn’t wander off. (Matthew 18:11-13 CEB)
We still need a life of balance, but not the kind that is afraid of slipping off the edge of the cliff. This balance leads us toward wholeness, holiness, and abundant life: A life lived in the center of God’s presence and will.
The Lord is my shepherd.
I lack nothing.
He lets me rest in grassy meadows;
he leads me to restful waters;
he keeps me alive.
He guides me in proper paths
for the sake of his good name. (Psalm 23 CEB)
The image that I now use for balance is of a field or pasture.
Picture a field where all the sheep and cattle graze in only one corner. What happens? The field becomes damaged from being overgrazed and the livestock become ill.
What happens when the herd is allowed to explore and roam and enjoy the fullness of the field prepared for them? Here they are always led by the herder to find the best food so they are stronger and more alive than when they stayed in their safe corner. As long as they follow the herder and trust that they are guided to the good places they are able to enjoy all the wonders of the full field.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11 CEB)
When we go astray, the good herder finds us! When we fall behind, Grace carries us.
This view of balance is reflected in the word “Shalom.” We often translate it as peace, and it is that. But this is a peace that is all about being whole: Living as the integrated human beings God makes us to be. It is a peace that comes from being held in Essence, which holds us and heals us from every danger and stumble.
Jesus said in John 14:27 and John 16:33 that he came to bring us God’s version of peace. This peace is shalom: being fully in the One who makes us one. We are not partial beings, but able to live balanced and fully dimensional lives.
Where are you trying too hard? What fears and anxieties fuel your drive to not fail?
How can you rest in the arms of the Shepherd of Peace today?