I recently received the first copy of my new subscription to BusinessWeek magazine and was completely penetrated by the last page article by Suzy and Jack Welch (of GE fame).
In this article they are responding to a question about whether or not it is possible to achieve "work-life balance" and be a top performer in business. The question re-phrased is can I be a superstar at work, and be a superstar at home? Can I be a top performer in business and be a good husband and father, and a contented person?
Here is what knocked me to the canvas. ". . . . We’ve heard it dozens of times. In a global economy wherein job challenges are constantly escalating, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by conflicting demands. And technology complicates matters. With your BlackBerry in hand, you can constantly be on call for everyone. But feeling swamped is really just a default mechanism: It’s what occurs when you don’t face what "achieving work-life balance" really comes down to which is making choices and living with their consequences. In fact we would even vote to retire the term "work-life balance" and replace it with "work-life choices".
The problem is that "work life balance" suggests there is one right ratio for how much time you spend working and not working and we disagree with that. Sure, there’s a lot of politically correct advocacy for a kind of perfect equilibrium, and it may well be that many people want a 50-50 split between work and life. But some people love work so much and find it so gratifying that they want to live a different equation, like 70-30, say. Still others want to work just enough to support a life of avocation. We have a friend who writes and consults about two months a year to pay for travel the other 10 months. He thinks his life is perfectly balanced.
Balance, we’re saying, is a personal choice based on what feels right to you given what you want from life personally and professionally. With that choice comes consequences. When you choose to work 80 hours a week and you have a family, you’re also choosing to give up some level of intimacy with your spouse and children. When you choose to work 35 hours a week in order to see more of them, you’re also choosing to take yourself off the fast track to senior management. There’s no right or wrong here. There are just individual choices and their trade-offs."
Their premise is dead on target (decisions have consequences and we have to be willing to live with those consequences when we make choices). But their solution is off target in that they do not go far enough; God is absent from the equation. Let me explain.
I agree that feeling swamped is a default mechanism that results from not understanding that we make choices and choices have consequences; both good and bad. I have recently had to deal with my own heart on this matter of feeling swamped, unprofitable, unsuccessful, stressed and despairing of good. Why? Because I’m a man-pleaser. I want people to be happy with me. I want my congregants to approve of me, for my job-approval rating to be higher than the President’s. I want my peers to approve of what I do and how I do it; to feel their respect. I want to feel successful and worthy to be doing what I do. And thus I make choices. Choices to be spread too thin, choices to chase rumors and idle chatter so as to correct false assumptions, and re-direct faulty opinions. Choices that have consequences. Consequences of feeling swamped, unproductive, unsuccessful, disrespected, etc. All of it is self-centered narcissism (redundancy intended). It is sin. The truth is found in Proverbs 29:25 "The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe."
This realization has been painful, and yet a very gracious gift from God in allowing me to see it, repent of it, and re-seek a life of total dependence upon God, His Word and His grace for my every moment. To make choices based upon His Word and His guidance with the joyful understanding that these choices do indeed have consequences, but that in making these decisions in this way, those consequences are all purposed by God for my good and my increasing joy in Him.
This is where I disagree with the Welch’s. For the Christian, the way to understand that our choices have consequences is not to ask what we want out of life and out of work and then make choices accordingly. It is finding out what God intends for me as a man, as a husband, as a father, as a pastor and then making choices accordingly. It is in considering the eternal ramifications of such decisions and not the temporal effects of making them when people don’t agree with my ratio, with my priority structure.
So I am re-ordering my life around His priorities for me as man, husband, father, pastor, coach, community member, etc. I do so with great excitement in the following Words from my Lord.
Psalm 37:23 (ESV) The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way;
Psalm 1:1-3 (ESV) Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners,nor sits in the seat of scoffers;  but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
Matthew 6:25-34 (ESV) "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  And why are you anxious about clothing? Con sider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,  yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  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.
Seeking to live for God and God alone.