At the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus collected a group of people who became his close companions. We know of his twelve disciples and there are also stories of Jesus’ friends Martha, Mary and Lazarus in whose home he relaxed.
I wonder who the people are in your life that you have collected on your life or ministry journey? How much do you support them and how much do they support you? With your finite amount of time and energy, what proportion of each do you spend on work and what proportion is shared with your closest companions? It can be helpful to be intentional about the amount of time you share – so that it is negotiated ‘quality time’ rather than left over dregs.
Finding the balance between different aspects of our lives is a constantly changing equation. There will be times when the balance is out of kilter and we feel there is nothing to be done to change the situation, and other times when tweaking things just a little produces major benefits. It can be helpful to assess the things you have control over and make the changes you want.
An image that I find useful in reflecting on balance is that of a plate on a stick, spinning continually to maintain its place on the top of the stick. Sometimes, large adjustments need to be made and other times a steady hand is all that is required for the goal to be achieved. Equilibrium rarely lasts long, however, and soon further movements are required.
There is a balance between the sacrifices that are made by those called to ministry and the blessings derived from such ministry. You may reflect on the sacrifices your nearest have made, as they journey with you.
For manse families there may be difficult things associated with living in a manse that will be balanced by some of the privileges of manse living. I wonder if those of you in this situation could identify some of the things that your nearest and dearest would cite as these constraints and advantages? They will almost certainly be different for every person.
If you live alone, it may be harder for you to enquire from those you identify as your closest companions, what impact your ministry might be having on them. Do you find that your ministry is so absorbing that there is little to converse about anything other than ministry? Or is it the opposite – you want your time off to be just that, and it’s others who bring the conversation around to ministry things? Creating strategies to manage either of these is helpful. One such strategy would be to prepare topics of conversation that you find interesting and set a goal for non-ministry relaxation time. Again, balance would be good, but it’s simple helpful to reflect and make adjustment where you can.
The balance between care for self and care of others is another aspect that may require attention. In ministry there are always others who willingly absorb all our emotional energy, and sometimes those closest to us might feel neglected, taken for granted or at the bottom of the priority list. For some, it is our closest who demand so much of our attention, leaving little left for the work of ministry. Our emotional response to both of these scenarios may be guilt. Guilt is lessened when we accept that we have done our best, made our choices wisely and balanced that spinning plate. Occasionally the plate might drop and we have to reset. Clear recognition and communication of what we need is useful.
When was the last time you had fun with your nearest and dearest? Fun will mean different things to different people and at different times in your life. Can you identify what constitutes fun or pleasure for you? Is it the same as fun for your closest relationships? It is helpful to have playful things built into the rhythm of your life on a daily and weekly basis. In addition, there should also be space and time for bigger fun things, like holidays and special events. Let’s get talking. Let’s get planning.
Fife Presbytery Pastoral Coordinator