Held in the Balance
By Cameron Lawrence
A few months ago, I was sitting on the floor of my daughter’s room, next to her low bed, as the last of daylight filtered through the curtains. My wife held our baby close, rocking her to sleep as we sang old hymns and songs from childhood. Feeling tired myself after a challenging day at the office, I lay down on the carpet and took in the moment’s peace with a deep breath, as my wife’s soothing alto filled the room.
“Mommy will love you, mommy will love you,” she sang out, “Mommy will love you all her life.” And then, in the next verse, when “Mommy” became “Daddy,” I was surprised at how deeply affected I was by the tenuousness of that line. “Daddy will love you all his life,” she said, and I felt its weight. Here within a tender promise of devotion was also the truth of my fragile existence. As the autumn sky drank the last light from the room, and my daughter drifted to sleep on a current of melody, I quietly swallowed the difficult realization: My life will come to an end. And my daughter’s will continue without me as I enter the great rest, awaiting the resurrection of the body.
It’s not often that one comes face to face with his mortality in a lullaby. But lately I’m thankful for sobering reminders such as these, however they arise. I’ve learned that life has a way of dulling my heart into a state of forgetfulness, with immediate concerns and desires taking precedence over the eminently more important fact that eternity looms on the other side of a darkening horizon. Life, it turns out, has a way of distracting me from what really matters: repentance, namely, and love.
“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom,” the psalmist wrote (Ps. 90:12 nkjv). Though it may seem morbid to some, the constant remembrance of our pending death is one of the greatest tools we have in the spiritual life for living well now, and for preparing to meet the Savior—whenever He calls us onward.
I often wonder: When my days come to an end, what will I have left behind? What effect will I have had on the people and the world around me? And most importantly, will my time here have prepared me to see Christ as He is, without a veil between?
It’s often said that in our last moments, we won’t wish we accumulated more belongings or greater wealth, or received better promotions. Instead of achievements, we’ll think of the people we love and the time we did or didn’t spend with them. But while this advice is helpful, too often it misses the greater point that our labor does in fact matter.
In striving for balance, we can have a tendency to set our jobs in opposition to our non-work lives, making one the hapless victim and the other a villain. But the truth is, all of life is one interdependent, integrated whole. It is ordained by God, and its vitality depends on the harmony of all parts working together—much like our bodies. Or in the words of the apostle Paul, “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it” (1 Cor. 12:26).
Before we can begin prioritizing our time and setting boundaries, there’s a fundamental truth we need to observe: The degree to which we achieve a balanced life depends on the measure of our love for others in the home and the workplace, for we are called to both.
Here’s why: You and I are made in the image of the God who is love (1 John 4:16). That is, we’re made in the image of the eternal communion and perfect relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In our Christian understanding, then, relationship is central to our apprehension of not only God as Trinity but also our true selves. In other words, unless we become love, we fail to be who we really are in Christ. (See 1 John 3.)
When our lives are out of balance, either by our giving too much time to the job and not enough to home, or vice versa, it’s likely that we have forgotten love as the guiding principle and core trait of our existence. It’s what motivates us to work hard in providing for our families, but it also holds us accountable to limit work activities to the allotted hours, so as to not steal time and attention away from them.
Similarly, love for our co-workers is what should motivate us to complete our assigned tasks with excellence and in a timely manner, because our mutual success is contingent on one another’s efforts. Even if we don’t presently love our jobs, love for our fellow employees can give us the motivation and accountability we need to continue glorifying God in whatever we do (Col. 3:17).
At the end of our days, it won’t matter what we’ve accomplished if we had to disregard our colleagues or family to get there. What we do is inextricably bound to who we become: the way we prioritize our time and set boundaries will ultimately determine whether we grow up into “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13 ESV)—into the image of Love Himself—or become an empty counterfeit spent on pleasures and successes that will one day be no more.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God,” wrote the apostle John. “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7 NIV). When this life is done, all we will take with us is the love we have for God and for the people He calls us to humbly serve. After all, love never ends.