As a child one of my favorite board games was “Don’t Tip the Waiter.” There was a swinging cardboard waiter carrying a tray high above his head, and all the players would take turns piling various items of food on the tray, stacking and balancing it all just right so that they didn’t “tip the waiter,” causing him to drop all the dishes.
Looking back on that game I wonder if that was training for life in ministry. As a pastor’s wife I tend to pile so much on my plate that I struggle to balance it all. Between church activities, taking care of my children, doing housework, maintaining relationships, volunteering at the school, cooking & laundry, counseling others, dating my husband, and finding time for myself, I often feel like that waiter…on the verge of tipping over and dropping everything!
But what if we saw our lives more like see-saws instead of a balancing act? Remember how fun the see-saw was on the playground? Back and forth, up and down. Sort of like life…
For instance, when I was a young pastor’s wife and our girls were ages 1 & 4 I would fret because there was no way I could be very active in our women’s group at church. There was no childcare available and my daughters needed my attention almost constantly. But now that they are 12 & 15 things have changed: they still need me (I hope) but they can fix their own breakfast and get themselves dressed while I lead a women’s Bible study on Saturday mornings. Rejoice in each season knowing that it will soon change. Life is full of back and forth, up and down…
But the back and forth, up and down doesn’t only happen in seasons- it happens monthly or even weekly! Sundays are our busiest day, obviously, so instead of wishing we had family time on Sundays we focus on ministering together and take our time on Friday instead. When VBS week rolls around my family knows that I will be gone every night and busy every day. They don’t resent my time away (or the take-out pizza that goes along with it) because they know that the week after VBS is completely blocked out for family time and rest. Busy times in ministry happen, and are even necessary- it’s just important that we remember that it’s less about balancing everything and more about give and take, back and forth, up and down.
The ups and downs of a see-saw are fun as long as there are both ups AND downs. But there was always that one kid who was a little bigger than everyone else on the playground that would get on the other end of the see-saw and hold their end to the ground, leaving you dangling helplessly up in the air. The same is true for our life in ministry. If we don’t have the up and down, back and forth between ministry and family, busyness and rest, then it is no longer fun. We get burned out, neglect our family, resent the church, even fall into health problems.
Let’s make our lives less about balancing it all and more about doing things in season. When church is busy, cut yourself some slack in the housework department. When things slow down at church, don’t fill your schedule with more busyness- be intentional about spending that down time with your family or other important relationships. We don’t have to do it all all of the time. Don’t carry that load of perfection! Let your life ebb & flow with the season, give and take, back and forth, up and down. It makes for a much happier ride!
And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you can know what really matters… Phil 1:9-10
PS- A special shout-out to my friends Lori Wilhite & Brandi Wilson for unpacking this encouraging perspective in their book “Leading And Loving It.” You can get your copy of the book HERE