Friday, May 17, 2013

The Balance Beam

I was a gymnast once. And I use the term “gymnast” in the loosest sense of the word. I went to the gymnastics center, tried to learn how to do a back handspring, use the vaulting horse, and develop enough upper body strength to use the bars. I really wasn’t successful at any of those. I was too tall and lanky, not to mention clumsy. But what I was good at (at least to my recollection), was the balance beam. And I don’t mean Olympic routines, I mean standing on the balance beam and not falling off. Perhaps getting in a hop or two or switching the position of my feet. I think my favorite part of gymnastics was getting to wear fun leotards. What girl doesn’t like to parade around in a fun leotard?

The thing that I remember most about the balance beam is that I had to focus on staying on or I would almost always fall off. And every time I fell off, I had to hop back up there again. This was the literal example of “you fall back down and get back up again”. How cliché, but true. Every once in a while I would find myself day dreaming and still standing on the balance beam, but those moments were few and far between. Fast forward, oh I don’t know, thirty years or so, and I am again a gymnast. But this time, the balance beam is my spiritual life, my walk with the Lord. And while it’s a few decades later, I still feel clumsy. And I still fall off a lot.

The Bible references the narrow road that leads to life. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it – Matthew 7:14. I liken that narrow road to a balance beam. I cannot stay on a balance beam without focus. I also cannot stay on the narrow road that leads me to life without focusing on God. It doesn’t just happen, folks. It takes concentration, intentional choices, and sacrifice. I can’t live my life the way that the world lives, because this world is fallen, broken, ugly, and ruled by sin. But lately, I feel as if I have been falling off of that balance beam quite a lot. And maybe I’m even a bit bruised. And sometimes it hurts pretty badly. And I have to make the conscious choice to climb back up on that balance beam and try to focus all over again.

What I’m learning is that this will be my life forever. I might get better at balancing my life, but there will always be something that distracts me from staying on that balance beam. And I will have to find the strength to climb back up there each time I fall off. I’ve also found that I have “spiritual muscles.” I’m really working on developing these and toning them up right now. And I do that my getting in the Word, praying, journaling, having conversations with God, listening to Him, and spending time with people who also love the Lord. I do this by living my life with open palms instead of clenched fists, by surrendering my day to God each morning, and continually acknowledging and thanking Him for the many blessings in my life. I do this by making good choices, taking every thought captive to Him, turning over my doubts and fears to Him, asking Him for guidance, and trusting Him. And sometimes, I work really hard and build those muscles up and have the strength to stay on that balance beam, on that narrow road. Other times, I get sucked in by life and everything that I add to my plate, and I don’t exercise those spiritual muscles, and they start to shrink again. And I lose the strength to stay balanced, and I fall off. Over and over again. I detour off of that narrow road and join the highway going 70mph.

Over time, a gymnast’s body gets comfortable on the balance beam and it becomes a little easier to stay on and perform a routine. Practice makes perfect, or at least better. It’s the same with walking on the narrow road. When we develop a routine and build up our spiritual muscles, we can stay on that balance beam or that narrow road a little longer before we fall off. But as soon as we start to daydream and get lazy, guess what happens? We get distracted, we lose our strength, and we fall right off.

I know that we are not all gymnasts. Honestly, I probably never was. I was probably just that little girl running around in a fun leotard pretending to be good at something. But as I’ve gotten older, I don’t want to pretend anymore. I don’t want to pretend that I love Jesus, yet not show it in how I live my life or how I treat others. I don’t want to pretend that everything in my life is perfect when I’m walking around bruised from falling off of the balance beam over and over again. I want to work at being a better gymnast. I want to build up my spiritual muscles so that I can stay on that balance beam for as long as possible. And even when I fall off, I always want to have the determination and strength to climb back up. Because that balance beam will always be there and it will always be narrow, just like the road to life. And I will always fall off, but I don’t have to stay there.

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