A part of my workout routine is to take a step, lift my back leg and bend at the waist with my hands outstretched to touch the floor. I probably look a bit like a flamingo. A personal trainer introduced me to this exercise while I was recovering from knee replacement surgery. He said it would help me keep a sense of balance, as well as serve as a good stretching exercise. When I do it repeatedly, the tricky part is to maintain a proper balance. With some steps, I do it perfectly, but with others I struggle not to put my leg back on the floor in order not to fall over.
Maintaining physical balance gets more difficult as one ages. This is why so many aging parents and grandparents end up in the hospital. They lose their balance and fall.
Maintaining spiritual balance is also difficult. It is hard to remain steady in the truth about God and our perception of him. We tend to veer away, falling toward one side or the other. For example, I listened to a song this morning, Reckless Love, whose chorus goes like this:
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah
It is a popular song because it resonates with so many who have felt lost and abandoned. It is based upon Jesus’ parable about the shepherd who has one sheep wander from the flock and the shepherd goes looking for him, leaving the 99 others behind. (Luke 15:1-7 NIV) The message is that God cares so much about us that he will seek us out no matter what. Yet, Jesus told another parable soon after this about a son that demands his inheritance, runs away, and blows all the money on himself. Interestingly, the father in this story, unlike the shepherd in the previous one, remains at home and waits. He doesn’t pursue his son.
So, which is it? Is God’s love so reckless he will do whatever it takes to chase us down and bring us home? Or will he instead wait on us until we’re desperate enough to return to him? It’s actually both, but often we tend to embrace one rather than the other. Some, like the writer of the song, view God loving us so much that he never, ever stops pursuing us. Yet, applied broadly, it sends a message that is unbalanced—that no matter what we do, God will never stop reaching out to us in an attempt to get our attention. However, we don’t see that happening in the parable of the lost son. The message from that story seems to be that the Lord allows the consequences of our sin to humble us enough that we will once again seek him. And, when we seek him, he promises we will find him (Jeremiah 29:13)
The song is not wrong to emphasize the overwhelming love of God because it truly is overwhelming, but it is out of balance with his character to view him as always pursuing us no matter what. Often, he waits patiently for us to return to him. The move is ours to make. However, it is equally mistaken to view God as always waiting on people to return to him and never pursuing them. Both views can be supported by Scripture, but if we exclude one in favor of the other, then we have lost our balance.
It is the same way with teaching the Word or seeking to live out the Christian life. Many churches will focus on certain things in Scripture, but not others. Many churches teach often on the love and mercy of God, which of course is quite biblical, but very few instruct on the need of confession of sin and repentance, both equally biblical.
Many of the students with whom I work and have worked are excited to have Christian fellowship, which again is a biblical concept, but few have the burning desire to pray, to read the Word, or to tithe, which are biblical teachings as well. The result is a very unbalanced spiritual life.
When we are spiritually out of balance, the danger is we will fail to see the true God and only see a god of our own limited understanding or preference. He will become a god of our own making instead of the one who made us and the entire universe.
I often tell students they cannot be a follower of Christ and not be familiar with the teachings of the Bible. It is the source of most of what we can know about God. Our familiarity with it is crucial to have our lives in spiritual balance. Without this understanding, we will never be steady in the truth.
I have been doing my balance exercise for nearly five years and I still struggle maintaining my balance, but I am much better than when I first started. It will be the same way for us who are struggling with spiritual balance. Even when we pursue to strengthen it by our understanding of the Scriptures and integrating their teachings into our daily lives, we will still continue to struggle. It is something that needs constant maintenance, but in doing so, we will certainly get better at it. The most important thing is to make the concerted attempt rather than continue to live life out of balance.