A year after Betsy and I got married, she got pregnant with our daughter, Jessica. She had a miserable pregnancy and we waited 4 more years to have our son Jaden. That pregnancy was worse. She swore that if i got her pregnant again, she would kill me, so we decided that we would grow our family through foster care and adoption. In 2011, we got our foster license, and in 2012, we got our first placement. Instead of one child under 2, we got two brothers, age 4 (James) and 5 (Josiah). The boys were broken and beautiful. We learned an alphabet soup’s worth of acronyms telling us that our boys would never be normal. Luckily, God’s bigger, but that’s a different story. We adopted the boys in 2014. Last year, in January, we took another placement, this time a brother and sister (age 3 and 6). We learned some more acronyms and had new obstacles to overcome. We will be adopting JJ and Janiya sometime before the end of 2017. All 4 of our adopted (or soon to be adopted) kids have had traumatic pasts that have lead to all sorts of care and time beyond what would be considered “normal”.
Now that the stage is set, let’s talk about balance. How in the world are we supposed to balance the constant demands of ministry and still do family and the rest of life well? I’m not the best at this, but I’ve learned some things along the way (sometimes unwillingly :)). The most important is this: We need to give up on the idea that there is some perfect equilibrium that can be achieved with good enough schedule and planning. There are just too many things shifting and changing in the lives of those that have committed big parts of their lives to ministry. The variables almost always outweigh the constants, kids in crisis, family growth, ministries morphing, growing and changing etc. There’s a simple way to illustrate this: try standing on one foot without holding onto anything. You have to focus, and even then, you’re constantly shifting your weight around to maintain balance. Life is no different. If you want to stay upright, you need to be willing to make constant adjustments to the way that you use your time in order to keep yourself healthy and maintain balance.
Instead of adjusting to make room for the curveballs that life and ministry throw at us, many of us simply default to doing more. Kid in crisis? We can just sleep less. Family having a tough week? We’ll figure it out. The problem is, when things get added to our schedule or crisis hits, our tendency can be to cannibalize the things that are really important to us – things like sleep, exercise, personal time with Jesus and even family time. If we’re going to keep ourselves from that trap, we need to constantly evaluate what’s in front of us and be realistic about both our ability and the time we have. (That will lead to a whole new problem, the need to embrace our limits!) As we evaluate honestly, we need to then be willing to make the (sometimes difficult) decisions that keep our life in balance. What we would rather have is a “one-size fits all” solution, but the reality is that healthy balance is achieved one day, one issue, sometimes one hour, at a time. Therefore, we need to keep this as a priority in front of us as people in ministry, so we don’t slide into default mode.