Finding Balance, Losing Balance

Do you remember running to the playground as a kid and beholding a line of colorful wood or metal seesaws? You’d pair up with a friend and take turns pushing each other off the earth and weighing each other back down.

vintage see saw
(from vintage everyday)

But no one, child or adult, is ever satisfied with the monotony of passively bounding up and down, up and down. A seesaw gets boring. So at some point you’d get off your side and onto the center of the seesaw, trying to stand balanced between each end, strong and solid, impartial to the tug of either side.

That was always a lot more exciting, because it was really hard. You’d wobble, doing some kind of wild calisthenics as you try to find equilibrium. Some of you triumphed, and others (I hope it’s not just me) are still working on it.

I feel like I’ve spent most of my life on a seesaw. Mentally. Ideologically. Spiritually. I’m all or nothing, liberal or conservative, left or right. I become fixated on one extreme, unwilling to budge out of fear. I’m afraid that if I do leave my comfortable, well-worn side of the seesaw, I’ll tumble toward the other end, the other extreme, hurtling back to earth with a resounding bang that rattles my bones.

What I don’t realize, of course, is that this hurtling has already happened, because I’ve stayed on one end of the seesaw the whole time. That’s the nature of a seesaw, you know; that’s the whole point. I’ve bounded up, but I always come back down. Neither end, neither extreme, is impervious to damage. You fly up in the euphoria of a false righteousness, only to fall when your own perfect expectations are impossible.

I thought I was secure. I thought I was solid and strong. But in reality I’ve been foolishly flailing in the air, so self-assured while I fly untethered and fall with rattled bones. In my pride, I did not see the damage. I was oblivious to the fine cracks that this kind of strain causes.

The more I learn about God, the more I realize that He does not call us to extremes. He calls us to “be fully convinced in our own minds”, promising that He “is able to make us stand” (Romans 14, verses 5 and 4). This means following the call of the Holy Spirit, Who shows each of us what the center of the seesaw is in our time and place.

In real life, I’m terrible at balancing on the top of a seesaw. I look more like a frantic surfer than anything. I fall to the ground, injure myself, look stupid. And of course, spiritually I’m not much better. But that’s okay. It’s a process. And I’d rather go through this process than spend my life stuck on one end, forever bounding up and down and thus damaging myself.

God promises that He is able to make me stand, and day by day, with His grace, I get better at standing with a foot on each side of the seesaw. This way of living is a little terrifying, especially if, like me, you have terrible balance.

In the very loosely-borrowed words of C.S. Lewis: it’s not a tame life, but it sure as hell is a good one.


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