This topic is so personal to me lately; but, a few years back, I was in a completely different place. Though I had plenty to fill my time, I was adept at putting off tasks and feeling completely useless by the end of the day. Ecclesiastes 5:12 says, “Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep” (ESV). Though I certainly was not rich, I did not work enough and felt guilty going to bed without earning the rest.
Then, in an answer to prayer, life suddenly changed. God faithfully ushered me out of my languishing, and I am grateful. And… now I am consistently busy and struggling to find balance. Though I would never want to return to the life I was living, this new season presents me with new challenges. Suddenly, I am asking questions like, “When am I going to have time to spend with Eric?” and “When will I see my friends again?”
Each day, I think about what I need to do; and how much more I can do. I’ll finish processing one more file. Okay, one more. Well, just one more…
My life swung from one imbalanced state to another. Maybe you can relate? Perhaps at the beginning of your relationship you had hours to spend together each day, and then suddenly you felt lucky to find 30 minutes. Balance is something most people (and couples) struggle to achieve; and though many never reach that perfect sweet spot, we can make strides towards a more balanced life and relationship.
- Keep the future in mind. It is easy to lose sight of tomorrow when today is filled with pressure. When faced with decisions about how to use our time and which opportunities to take, it is helpful to ask, “Which decision will I be glad I made six months from now? Two years from now? Ten years from now?” Planning for our future self and determining how he or she will be affected by our current behaviors can help us plan for a more balanced life.
- Step out of the situation for a minute and think objectively. What would you tell a friend if he or she came to you with the same concerns you are feeling now? If my friend approached me and said, “Heather, I feel like my job is taking precedence over the rest of my life. I am finding little time to spend with my husband and the order in my home is suffering too,” I would, without hesitation, remind her that all the money she makes belongs to the Lord (Hebrews 2:10, Psalm 50:10-12), that He provides for us (Philippians 4:19), and that time with God and her family is more important than her constant productivity (Luke 10:38-42).
- Create standing dates which make you prioritize the people in your life. Every other Wednesday night, I know I am meeting with a group of ladies from church. We keep our calendar clear on those nights so I know I have that time available to fellowship with friends. It helps shake me out of my day-to-day haze and encourages my heart (Hebrews 10:25, Proverbs 27:17).
- Play beat the clock. Cleaning might be the first “sacrifice” I personally make when life gets busy (and maybe even when it is not). Because I am not fond of housekeeping, it is easy to let it go until my surroundings are so cluttered it affects my ability to work. Housework feels like a never-ending endeavor which can take over the day, so sometimes I set a timer and try to complete a task in the time allotted. Okay, I have 30 minutes to clean and straighten the living room (i.e., my workspace). Go! If I get it done in time, great! I win. If I do not, my space is still far cleaner than it was before, and I am able to move on with the day. A few 30-minute cleaning spurts beats no cleaning any day.
- Hire out duties. If time with your tribe eludes you or you are too busy to connect with your significant other, think about trading money for time. Is there something you can hand over to a capable party so you can have more time to relax with your people? Yard work, laundry, proof-reading/formatting school papers, general house-cleaning, pet services, etc. It is tough to give up control of some chores, but you may find yourself a lot happier if you do.
- Check in with your significant other weekly. How is your heart this week? Do you feel seen or neglected? How can we do better next week? If we allow, relationships can be built-in accountability. Couples can exist for years in silence while growing ever more apart and desperate. Cut that possibility off at the pass and check in at least once a week – if not daily. Let your favorite person (i.e., the person you married/will marry) be your biggest defense against falling prey to an unbalanced life. (If that person is no longer your favorite, take steps to get back to that place relationally. You were there once at one time – at least your wedding – and you can do it again.)
- Refuse to neglect your time in Bible study and prayer. When life gets busy (and, if you are over 12 years old, it does), devotional time is often the first thing to go. I am running late. I’ll pray later. I am so tired. I’ll pray in the morning. Ugh, I overslept, so I’ll have to pray when I get home…. Integrate God’s word and prayer into your entire day. Display new passages around your workspace each week. Pray throughout the day (I Thessalonians 5:17). Take devotional breaks. And, keep a standing date with the Lord every morning or every night. Making time in the mornings is harder, but morning devotions often lead to a smoother and more joy-filled day.
If we could read the minds of older generations, we would likely hear, “Slow down. Enjoy your life. Close the computer. Take the vacation. Look deeply into her eyes. Lean your head against his shoulder. Appreciate the person you have and love them as much as you can for as long as you can. What are you striving towards? What reward are you seeking for all your extra work? Are you willing to sacrifice the treasure you have for the treasure you are seeking? Could it be you already have what you are chasing?”
When I think about our quest to gain and achieve, I think of Solomon and all his riches.
So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 2:9-11, ESV)
He had everything and, at the same time, he had nothing.
Those who fall into imbalanced lives often do so unknowingly. One responsibility comes and then another and then another. Sometimes we take on other people’s duties until we are completely overwhelmed. To keep yourself from falling victim to a time warp or work rut, start your life together surrounded by safeguards. Talk about all the possible ways your relationship can be negatively impacted by outside influences and create a plan of attack.
- We will continue to have Sunday lunch with our family no matter how busy we get.
- If our jobs begin to require more than 50 hours a week, we will investigate other options.
- We will save a significant amount of money while we are both working so we have financial options if our jobs start to take over our lives.
- We will work out babysitting options where we can ensure ourselves a date night at least every other week (preferably weekly).
- We will read the Bible together and pray every day.
Boundaries are not meant to exclude the world, but to protect what is inside the walls. There will always be more to do. There will always be more people to serve. There will always be more money to make. But, there will not always be more time with the one(s) you love. Keep this in mind when choosing how to spend your time. (Preaching to myself here.)
Start your marriage with an action plan and become a well-rounded couple which other couples can imitate. ~smile~
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:33-34, ESV)
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. (Psalm 127:2, ESV)
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30, ESV)
How will you create more balance in your life and relationship this week?