The Problem with Balance

I was walking across campus last week right after speaking in chapel when one of the deans asked, “How do you balance ministry and family, especially with all of your travel?”

It’s a question I’ve been asked enough over the years that it warrants me offering a more extended answer than the one I gave to the dean during our quick journey to lunch.

It would be foolish for me to not acknowledge the obvious- the jury is still out on how good of a job I am doing with all of the plates I’ve got spinning.  The answer I give today at forty could be quite different when I’m sixty.

To begin with, balance is way overrated.  Can I be frank with you?  I hate the word balance.  Nowhere in the Bible are we called to be balanced in how we handle life.  If my goal is to be balanced in all things, I will be radical in no thing.  The call to follow Jesus is the call to a life of radical sacrifice, not balance. 

Balanced is lukewarm.

Balanced is a jack of all trades a master of none.

Balanced is nominal.

Balanced is cultural Christianity.

Balanced is unappealing.

I want to be radical.

In the garden, God gave Adam a mission before a mate.  Adam was called by God to cultivate the garden.  Clear on his calling, God now assigns to Adam what he calls a helper in Eve.  Eve was not just someone whom he could share bodies and converse with, but Eve was also someone who was called to walk with Adam in his vocation (Vocation comes from the Latin for calling).  Theirs was a holistic partnership in every dimension.

I view my labors as a preacher and pastor as a calling.  I am called to preach the gospel.  It’s not about money.  It’s not about notoriety.  It’s not about getting on and off airplanes or leveraging a platform.  I am called to this.  If there’s one thing I’ve been sure of since the age of seventeen, Bryan Loritts is called to preach. 

Nothing frustrates a marriage faster than when a husband feels like he has an opponent rather than a helper.  Now hear me, I’m not painting the picture of some docile, yes woman molded after the fashion of the first proposed wife in Coming to America (“Whatever you like”), but if there’s two things you must be clear on it is: 1) What has God called you to do; 2) Who has he assigned to be your helper (not employee)? 

Korie is my helper.  As Adam and Eve walked in vocational oneness as they cultivated the garden daily, so Korie and I labor in ministry together.  While I preach she prays.  Whatever growth I am experiencing in holiness, it’s been because of the grace of God, the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and his assistant- Korie!  So however God uses me, it’s not just me, but it’s we.  For all the souls who have come to know Christ, joined Fellowship Memphis, turned from their sins, it’s not just how God has used me, it’s how he’s used Korie and I together. 

The writer of Proverbs says that a man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before kings.  I’ve found this to be true in my own life.  God has opened doors for me to proclaim the gospel around the world.  Common sense and simple discernment dictates that I not say yes to every or even most things, but I do know that I’m called to many of those invitations.  I’m not called to be at the dinner table every night.  But I am called to be the father of Quentin, Myles and Jaden.  I’m not called to make them the center of my world, but I am called to make God the center of my world, affections and labors.  Which means that I won’t be at every soccer game, school program or spelling bee.

If I feel a little bit of judgment from you after this last paragraph it’s because I’m writing to a culture, especially a Christian culture, who is guilty of the idolatry of family.  I think the desire to be present is not only good, but is necessary.  However, if in your estimation a good parent is at every event, and makes their kids the center of their world, you are setting your children up for a colossal failure.  Continue down this road and you will not launch arrows into the world, but boomerangs- kids who leave the house, and then return because they realized that in the world they are not the center, but at home they are.  So why not return to the one place where they were sold a bill of goods?  Could it be that our “failure to launch” culture was built on the pipe dreams of well meaning parents who replaced God with little Johnny?

Again, I don’t want you to misunderstand me, I can’t lead anyone I don’t spend time with, and I am called to be the husband of Korie and the father to  my children.  Korie and I enjoy weekly dates together, along with trips away, just the two of us.   I am at most of Jaden’s basketball games.  Myles and I have logged hundreds of hours on the golf course together where in between shots we talk about everything from Harry Potter to his dreams.  I’ve stood and watched Quentin take off at a cross country meet, only to make a dash for it to the other side of the course so I can see him finish (why not make the starting and finishing line the same place).  When I stand in the presence of God I will have to give an account for how I stewarded the lives of these four people I am called to lead.

But I also have been entrusted with the gospel, and to by vocation, that is calling, steward it to the people at Fellowship Memphis, and for this season the people of other states and countries.  I feel the tension of wanting to be out at a restaurant on a Saturday night with my wife, but I have to spend time getting ready to preach at Fellowship the next morning.  I am perplexed because on the one hand I want to see Jaden hit another jump shot, but God has called me to preach the good news to a gathering of pastors.  I’d love to say yes to that once in a lifetime preaching opportunity, but Korie and I have agreed to block that week off for some needed rest and family time. 

I don’t know how to be balanced.  I don’t want to be balanced.

I want to radically follow Jesus.

I want to radically love my wife.

I want to radically love my children.