One of the goals of this blog is to keep thinking theologically about how to incorporate and engage the physical body in our mental and spiritual pursuits. This balance is important not only for our spiritual lives but for our lives as a whole.
All things in moderation is a motto I remind myself of often when I indulge in fatty foods, exercise, even watching TV.
Even healthy pursuits can be bad for us in too-large quantities; likewise, less healthy pursuits can be good for us, too, in smaller quantities.
For example, having an alcoholic beverage from time to time can actually be a healthy source of antioxidants. Working out too often or too hard can lead to muscle strains, shin splints, and even dysregulated metabolism.
When we start talking about things like work/school-life balance (for an excellent and thought provoking view, I highly recommend the recently published Why Women Still Can’t Have It All), spirituality-life balance, family-friend balance, conservative-liberal balance, or even productivity-rest balance, we can start to feel like holding everything in perfect tension is an overwhelming and perhaps even impossible task.
Here’s the good news: balance is not a tight-rope act.
Balance is not about taking one painfully tense step after another intensely stressful step on a thin wire above certain death.
Finding balance in life is a lot like contemplative prayer. In contemplative prayer, there is no frustrating struggle for command over distracting thoughts. There is, instead, the honest acknowledgement of the moment and cause of distraction and the disciplined, gentle return to focus on God.
In life, we often expend unnecessary energy beating ourselves up for spending too much time and attention here and not enough there. We struggle and fight and end up in discouraging failure because the truth is we are imperfect people living imperfect lives.
Balance is about extending grace to ourselves in those moments where we step too far to the left or right or when life wears us down and we stop altogether to catch our breath and wipe the sweat out of our eyes.
Body theology is not something to beat ourselves with. It is something to slowly begin to weave into the fabric of our daily lives so that we become
more mindful of the role of our bodies,
more discerning about the messages from the Church and culture,
more aware of injustice, and
more sensitive to the movement of the Spirit within and around us.
I like one lesson Elizabeth Gilbert learns in her memoir Eat, Pray, Love: sometimes we have unbalanced seasons (where one aspect of our lives takes precedence and demands more time and attention while other important aspects may be neglected), but those seasons do not necessarily mean that we cannot have a balanced life.
A work commitment may take priority for a few weeks. A newly married couple may spend more time together than apart as they build the foundation of their marriage. The birth (or death) of a family member may require more emotional energy.
But when these seasons end (and they will), we have the opportunity to return our attention and intention — gently — to the healthy balance of spiritual, mental, and physical engagement in our life’s pursuits.
Balance is not about walking a tight-rope and hoping against hope not to tip or slip and fall.
Balance is about resuming the path toward becoming the healthy, whole people God has created us to be.
All things in moderation, lovely readers. Pace yourselves. Let’s keep walking this path together.