The Balancing Act

Nancy Wilson —  July 5, 2010

“There is a danger of doing too much as well as of doing too little. Life is not for work, but work for life, and when it is carried to the extent of undermining life or unduly absorbing it, work is not praiseworthy but blameworthy.”

Ralph Turnbull (1901-1985)


How good are you a tightrope walking? How many items can you juggle at one time? What are the most important balls to keep in the air?

These are among the many questions I was faced with during my first semester in seminary. I knew it wouldn’t be easy…not with a husband, two young children and two geriatric dogs in tow. I understood it would require a sizeable adjustment having moved our family (as well as my mother-in-law) to a new area, requiring us to find new dentists, doctors, libraries, schools, grocery stores and more. I sensed it would involve great sacrifice since my husband would be gone nearly five days of each week for his job…only leaving us a small window of time together on the weekends.

So, how did I juggle all of these responsibilities? And, how well did I do in meeting them? To answer this question, I called upon Stephen Covey’s time management grid where Covey* identifies four areas (quadrants) signaling how we should spend our time: (1) urgent and important, (2) not urgent but important, (3) urgent but not important,and (4) not urgent and not important.

One area in which I think I succeeded (in some small measure) was that my family remained in quadrants (1) and (2). Obviously, I had to make judgment calls as to when the needs were urgent or not and I had stress maintaining those levels but I sacrificed to make sure they were honored.

Where I fell short was in how I treated my seminary work, my devotions and myself. Regarding seminary, more often than not, I had placed my coursework in the urgent/important grid. I did that knowing that my family sacrificed a lot to allow me to follow my calling so I thought I was doing them a favor by pursuing my seminary coursework “all out” such that their support would not be in vain. What I realized later was that they had already given enough and, while I needed to attend to my studies, I didn’t have to give 110% every time. Regarding my devotions, I often found myself empty and exhausted from the reading and the writing of seminary work and it ate away at the time I had set aside for personal study and prayer. I think this is what troubled me most because I knew how monumentally important it was. And, concerning myself, I neglected good eating and exercise regimens and I did not get the level of sleep that my body most desperately needed. Frankly, I’m still feeling and seeing the effects of this personal neglect.

As I look toward the fall term and the balance of my seminary journey, I realize I need to make some adjustments or I’ll be paying a price I am no longer willing to pay. Regarding coursework, I’ll give it a good effort and be willing to consider completed assignments to be “good enough”. Regarding my devotional time, I simply need to observe the Sabbath day as it was intended. In so doing, I can spend more time with my family, be more caring toward myself and be able to reconnect more fully and deeply with God. To remind me of these commitments, I plan to keep a copy of Covey’s grid posted on my wall along with Jesus’ commandments to love the Lord with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength and to love my neighbors as myself (Mark 12:30-31).

Perhaps Galileo said it best when he noted”I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forego their use.” I, for one, need to heed God’s words of wisdom when it comes to understanding what is truly important and how best to balance that to which I have been called.
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*Stephen Covey is the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Nancy Wilson

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having left a career in academe as a faculty member and university administrator, is currently enrolled as a first-year student pursuing a Master of Divinity degree at Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis. She and her husband, Mike, have two young children—ages 5 and 7—that came to them through the beauty of adoption as well as two dogs that were shelter rescues. Nancy holds a B.S. in Business as well as an MBA degree, and has been chronicling her seminary journey on her personal blog, A Sheep's Eye View.