The other night, I walked into the kitchen and nearly had a panic attack. (For a lot of people, that might be an exaggeration. For me, it’s a pretty accurate picture of what actually happened.) It was nearly 11:00, and when I walked into the kitchen I was faced with a sink full of dirty dishes. Not that big a deal, but all I could think about when I saw them was how I should have washed them earlier instead of watching Dateline and eating cookies on the couch. It was an attack of guilt, and the verbal onslaught in my mind was as real as if the dishes themselves were yelling at me.
It’s not just the stuff I needed to do that made me feel so bad. (And it wasn’t the 20 cookies I had just inhaled, either.) I felt bad because I had made a choice, and the consequences weren’t worth it.
The mountain of dishes piled on top of the other things I knew I had to do before I went to bed, and knowing I had made such a bad choice compounded the pressure I felt.
That’s really what it comes down to, isn’t it? Balance is a way of thinking, certainly, but it is just as much a series of little decisions made every day. It’s all of those everyday choices – lounging on the couch with a package of Chips Ahoy, or taking care of what needs to be done – that make up a day.
We can toss around theoretical talk all day long, but life is not lived in the theoretical. Life is lived in the real world, where real choices are presented in real time, and real decisions determine how our day will really go.
So what do we need to do? What is required of us real-world dwellers? What should those of us who are far too tempted by chocolate chips – and altogether uninterested in washing dishes- do when those ordinary, run of the mill choices come at us?
We have to think. We have to engage our minds as God intended, refusing to robotically do only what comes naturally. We have to consider that life is full of decisions. Many of those are pretty inconsequential, but when they are lumped with other “inconsequential” decisions the results are significant indeed.
Balance lies in the small things. Just like a gymnast makes a thousand small adjustments to keep herself on the balance beam, we have to make small adjustments all the time to keep ourselves where we want to be. That decision may be whether to spend time in conversation with your spouse or to watch an hour of your favorite show. The decision might be whether to eat dinner out or to save the money and eat at home. The decision you have to make may be whether to sleep a little longer or get up and spend time in prayer. It could be anything – like choosing cookies over dishes – but it will be anything but inconsequential. It’s this or that. What will it be?