Finding life’s balance is a divine accomplishment

We all strive to achieve a certain balance in life: between work and play, our individual needs and community responsibilities, between music and the arts and our everyday life, to mention a few.

That is what the author of Ecclesiastes was getting at when he wrote, “There’s a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:2-7)

It is so easy to go to extremes: to become a workaholic and neglect our families for example. Ron Rolheiser has developed a list of 10 tensions essential for a healthy spiritual life. Jesus lived these tensions and taught us how to live with them.

1) A strong sense of individuality, a focus on private integrity and private prayer, coupled with an equally strong commitment to community, family, civic and church involvement and social justice.

2) A healthy capacity to drink in life and enjoy it without guilt while possessing an equally healthy capacity for asceticism, selflessness, and discipline.

3) A healthy development of the individual gifts that God has given us, a healthy self-awareness, held in tension with a healthy sense of duty, a capacity for obedience, and a humble realization that all gifts come from God.

4) A sympathetic voice for what lies outside the center of life, the marginalized, the excluded, while recognizing the importance of the institution, helping to nurture what is sacred within family, church, and tradition.

5) A perpetual openness to what is new, what is strange, what causes discomfort; to change, even as one works to ground oneself and others in the familiar, in routine, in what conserves, gives rhythm, and makes for family and stability.

6) A love for the sacred, for God, for the eternal horizon, coupled with a bold love for this world, for its joys, for its achievements, its present moment.

7) A passion for sexuality and a defense of its goodness, coupled with an equally strong defense of purity and chastity.

8) An eye for world-community, for stretching all the boundaries of our small world, for an ever-widening hospitality, even as one is deeply loyal to family, personal roots, and the fact that hospitality begins at home.

9) An idealism and a hope that defy the facts, that relies on God’s promises and does not let the deep desires of the human heart be discouraged by what happened in the past, held together with a realism that is pragmatic, with a practical plan of action, willing to share in the work at hand.

10) A focus on the next-life, on life after death, on the fact that our lives here are but a short time in expectation of something else, even as we focus on the reality and goodness of life after birth, this life, its importance.

Jesus was a master of keeping all the tensions of life together. He had healthy relationship with the children while challenging the adults.

He held all these tensions together as one, playing every kind of tune and breathing every kind of air, both human and divine. We must do the same.