Most of us struggle to achieve “work-life balance” and in recent years the term “work-life integration” has been gaining popularity in recognition that we live in an always-on culture. Is there really a difference between these two ideas and what does a faith-based perspective look like?
When thinking about “balance” people tend to think of a traditional scale, with work and life on opposing axis. This naturally creates tension since the only time a scale isn’t moving is when it is perfectly balanced and life is seldom still! For most of us the idea that a person’s work life and personal life can be separated is unrealistic and perhaps not even desirable. For example if taking a work call on vacation means we can travel more most of us would jump at the opportunity. However work-life integration leads many of us to feeling frazzled because we never disconnect and rest.
Is there a third way? What we are really seeking is harmony, flexibility and ultimately fulfillment and joy. This is not rooted in the amount of time you directly give to the different compartments of your life, but the value you gain from each area to create fulfillment and this takes some prioritization and discipline.
As followers of Jesus our priorities should have a natural order and often our discontent comes from not recognizing what should come first, second and third. By creating a clear order of priorities you can know where to spend your time and feel less guilty about choosing one thing over another. Each of us should create our own order but here are my top six priorities to get you thinking.
- Relationship with Jesus— As a committed follower of Jesus I recognize that this is the greatest commitment that I have made and is the eternal relationship. Plus as we’re formed into the image of Christ our contentment grows naturally. (Life doesn’t necessarily get easier!)
- Personal Health— If I am not well in my mind or body then I don’t have anything to give to my other priorities. Making sure I’m exercising, sleeping and eating well means I’m at my best for the people I love.
- My Spouse— Second to Jesus, this is the only other “covenant” relationship I’ll have in my life. My joy is to lift my spouse up and try and demonstrate the love of Jesus to her.
- My Children— I have a small window of time to help form their hearts and minds. What a joy to see them learn and grown and come to know who God is more fully.
- My Vocation— The work of my hands is important because it helps provide for my family and allows me to exercise my faith. When we try and make this number one like our culture tells us it always leads to disappointment. Remember, Jesus is our true provider.
- Everything else— In some seasons everything above takes most of the day but making time to do what refreshes you instead of just binge-ing Netflix will pay greater dividends.
The world does not need you to be balanced, the world needs you to be connected to the source of living water. Pursuing work-life integration instead of work-life balance won’t lead to a fulfilling and meaningful life but understanding where your priorities are and investing intentionally in them will bear fruit in both this life and the one thereafter.