I rapt softly on the door of her hotel room – a woman I’d long admired from a distance and one I was thrilled for the chance to spend time with. We’d been scheduled to speak at the same conference and I was honored to partner with her. She’d been actively involved in ministry for more than thirty years, and I – at the time a young wife and new mom in the fledgling stages of ministry – was feeling a bit strained in the season of life – the feeding schedules and diaper changes, the wakeful nights and early mornings, topped off by the responsibilities of a growing ministry. I was tired. Overwhelmed. Out of sorts and out of balance.
I needed a dose of her wisdom and perspective.
Stealing little moments like this was something I’d gotten in the habit of doing—seeking out people who seemed to live life the way it’s supposed to be lived, capturing the opportunity to snag one or two scraps of wisdom from their conversation. As I sat cross-legged on the floor of her hotel room, expecting nothing in particular but everything at the same time, I knew if I’d just listen, I’d glean a few nuggets of ageless truth to take away with me.
Speaking in her delicate British accent, she whisked me on a journey through her early years, revealing some of the lessons she’d learned along the way, as well as the ones she wished she’d learned a lot sooner. Every time I asked another question, I’d lean in – chin in my hands, elbows on my knees – listening for her thoughtful answers. Not a single one failed to make an impression.
Especially the boxes.
No, she didn’t pull them out from under her bed, or fish them from a hiding place in the closet. She simply painted them in my imagination, and then set them out before me, one beside another. Clear, glass boxes, each with a lid on top that opened and closed from a hinge fastened to the side. All were exactly the same size, and each was filled to the same level with a clear, bluish, water-like substance.
“These boxes, Priscilla, are symbolic of the activities of one’s life, the various undertakings into which we must invest our time, talent, and energy. Our tendency is to try keeping them just this way—equally filled with identical amounts of ourselves and our effort. This, we think, is what balance looks like.”
“But in reality, this is the picture of a woman overworked, frustrated, and exhausted. A life out of balance.
“The way we achieve balance, my dear, is to prayerfully consider God’s priorities for us in this current season of life, and then rearrange the boxes accordingly—pushing some of them into the background, bringing others to the front. Into these primary boxes we place the best of ourselves and our effort, while perhaps totally emptying some of the others—at least temporarily—not because they’re of any less overall significance but because they’re not where we need to be allocating the best of our abilities and attention for the time being.
“Balance is not when the boxes are equally filled but when we are free to fill only those that are important for now, without feeling guilt over the ones that we’ve left for another time and place. This is balance, little sister. Remember it.”
And the lessons learned from the boxes have saved my life.
*This is an excerpt from The Resolution For Women. Released in September 2011