Category Archives: productivity

The illusion of balance.

Do you remember when every other book was about balance? Work/life balance. Zen this? Feng shui that? The 28 keys to a balanced life? I found it soooo enticing. I think many others did, too. Something about the ‘figure-it-out-ness’ of the idea was so…well, hopeful, I guess. That somewhere in all those words was a practical, easy, applicable solution that would make me happier than I was before.

The words change as years go by. Synergy, connectedness, multitasking, productivity. It seems nowadays if you want to really be on top of cooking, you find the recipe online, upload it to AmazonFresh, one-click pay for home delivery, open the recipe on your iPad with integrated timers enabled, prep, then turn on the oven with your smartphone while you’re still at work. Is that balance?

In the past 18 months, I have begun the process of embracing being wildly out of balance. The other day someone asked me what the pro/con spreadsheet for moving to Colorado looked like. I laughed out loud at the idea. I never made one. If I had, there would have been one single item in the pro column: God told us to. And basically every other thing you can think of would have been on the con side. We left our friends, support network, ministry connections, and family.

A good friend once said to me, “Walking with God will, at times, look to others like utter irresponsibility.” Controversial yet amazingly kind words from a man who has been there. “You’re moving WHERE?” To do WHAT?” But what about _____? But how will you _____? Fill in innumerous blanks. But let’s not confuse the appearance of irresponsibility with following God. Can you picture Noah’s neighbors? You’re doing WHAT? Abraham, you’re moving to WHERE? But you don’t even know the way! Jesus, why are we leaving town now? We’re just getting traction!

I’m certain that being out of balance with the world changes with age and family situation. I’m a man in my 30′s. I want to be wildly out of balance when it comes to my wife, my kids, my family time. If balance means getting the things and having the relationships the world offers, then I want nothing like balance. If balance means a measured, cautious, careful, planned approach to life and God, I don’t want it. I want to be head over heels out of balance in my walk with the Father, with Jesus, and with the Spirit. The best, most satisfying, fulfilling, impactful, disruptive, painful, growth-filled years of my life have been the ones I’ve spent off balance.

 

Pressure.

I thrive under pressure. I cannot honestly recall a single paper I ever completed prior to the day it was due. Somehow I am at my peak of creativity in the heat of the moment. Even in problem solving and decision making, emergencies enhance my productivity. And I’m trying to break this habit.

Most of the reasons why could be their own blogs or book chapters. The titles would be things like ‘finding meaning, validation, and satisfaction in accomplishing more’ or ‘proud of being the guy who can get things done.’ But the list of reasons has one common denominator – self sufficiency. Deep down, my default world view is that I can figure it out. I can problem solve my way through life. I can make things happen. Truthfully, that philosophy has worked at some level for much of my life. Maybe you can relate. Even when I hear from God or know specifically that He wants me to do something, once I have the idea in my head, I pretty much figure out how to do it. Then I go do it. And it usually works.

The polar opposite of this approach is found in Mark 1. For context, Jesus is in the early months of his ministry.

“The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons , but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.” Mark 1: 33-34 (NIV)

If I just let my brain run with this, it goes nuts. I’m a marketing guy…this is awesome! He’s got some good stuff going on, word of mouth is going to be huge. The next logical steps would be set up an organization, figure out financial support, get a website up, recruit some social media ninja’s to run facebook, twitter, and LinkedIn. But, (long pause) no. What Jesus does the next morning is leave and not tell anyone where he is going!

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him…” Mark 1: 35-36 (NIV)

Even as I sit here typing this, I do not get this. We know that Jesus did much good for the world. We know that his heart was completely good towards others. We know all these character traits of Jesus, of his goodness and love and fierce pursuit. I do not understand his choice. His priority was to spend time with his Father. I conceptually get that, I have the knowledge that the Father is what would sustain his ministry over the next years. Just like I have the knowledge that what will bring me real life is time with the Father. But in real life, I do not yet have that wisdom. It’s not how I live today. I want to, I’m trying to, but it’s a daily struggle.

*Aside, I cannot help but mention the fact that Jesus doesn’t tell anyone where he is going, evidenced by the fact that “his companions went to look for him.” They didn’t go to him, they went to look. Every part of me is screaming out, ‘But what if there had been an emergency, another sick, another possessed, what if they had needed to get a hold of you, Jesus?!?!?!’*

So in the midst of moving, packing, Craigslisting, and detail overload, at a time when I would normally be thriving, figuring out the most efficient course for the day and generally getting stuff done…I’m not. I’m sitting at Starbucks, drinking a delicious cappuccino, writing a blog, and generally being highly unproductive by my old self’s definition. Yet I feel more than just peace. I feel a deep, soul-satisfying resolve that I’ve made the right decision for today. And some part of me knows that day by day, choice by choice is how old habits die.

The Father

White Squall is a film about a sailing ship for troubled boys. Instead of boarding school, they head out to sea for a semester. It’s a fantastic tale of masculinity, brotherhood, and restoration. Just past halfway, one young man realizes his question:

Chuck: “I’ve been acing tests my whole life and I still haven’t figured it out.”

Jim: “Figured what out?”

Chuck: “Who I am.”

For a lot of us men, figuring out who we are – and all that entails – sometimes seems like the ultimate challenge. And for those of us who are married with young children, it feels like we have to figure it out right now. Because we’re behind. Everyone else around us seems to have already figured out who they are. Of course, they haven’t really. Most of them have simply realized what they can do really well. But from the outside, every measure of the world says that they are on the right track.

Last weekend, I had the honor and pleasure of attending a retreat put on by Ransomed Heart Ministries called The 30′s Retreat. A man I deeply respect, Morgan Snyder, shared with us his journey of the 30′s over the last few years. I’m quite certain that I will be sharing many of his thoughts with you in the next decade of writing. But today, what strikes me is this idea of figuring out who we are. It seems so crucial to our journey, such an important piece, and until last weekend, I felt like I was doing a pretty good job at figuring it out.

Then the strangest thing happened. For the first time in my life, someone began to challenge me on the question behind that question. When I ask the question, “Who am I, Lord?” I expect an answer that speaks to my identity as a man, mission in life, gifting, the next course correction, or some other actionable item. In my relationship with God, I’ve experienced lots of interactions with Jesus, especially relating to His ministry as first explained in Isaiah 61. Healing my brokenness, restoring my deep heart, fredom from captivity, and bringing light to the dark places. In the last few years’ in particular, the Holy Spirit has had significant influence in my life, from hearing God’s voice and walking with Him daily to those gentle nudges that change course and bring life.

But this past weekend, for the first time in my life, I met the Father. I thought I had met Him, but I really hadn’t. And I was stunned. Amazed. Weeping for joy at what the future of our relationship will bring. For the first time in my life, I feel free to simply be who I am. I don’t have to figure everything out. I don’t have to have all the answers. I’ve been given permission – or maybe, for the first time, I’ve given myself permission – to be who I truly am. And to simply rest in the peace and joy of love of that true identity which does not require me to produce anything. Doesn’t require me to be self-sufficient or autonomous. Doesn’t require me to get things done. In fact, hindsight reveals that I pursued those things so hard that I thwarted my own ability to simply receive and engage and rest in the Father’s love in the first place.

Like Chuck, I feel like I’ve been acing tests my whole life. But last Friday, for the first time in my life, I realized the truth. I am my Father’s son.