Many, many years ago, I was a competitive gymnast.
Unlike most of my teammates, I delighted in the challenge of the balance beam.
Dancing, flipping, leaping and tumbling on nothing but a strip of wood wrapped in suede four inches wide, 16 feet long and lifted four feet above the ground exhilarated, thrilled and terrified my heart all at the same time! Ninety seconds of performing with literally palpable spectator suspense pushed me to try and do things I never dreamed possible.
I no longer relish that public balancing act like I did when I was younger.
On the other hand, I don’t see escape looming anywhere in the future. If I want to… or feel called and compelled to… continue this expat, ministry oriented life my family leads, regardless of where we land, that is one of those things that will remain – the hard work of seeking to graceFULLy negotiate balanced, obedient lives in very unbalancing worlds and situations.
We recently had a fascinating, thought provoking conversation here about struggling and whether or not choosing suffering furthers God’s work. The general consensus was that it could, but it wasn’t necessarily necessary. In fact, there are as many good and right possibilities as there are individuals, and each one has to determine what is right, most effective and God’s will for him or her. One may even find that what “is right” changes for different stages of life or in subsequent seasons of working on the field. My own words in this conversation echoed those thoughts: “I DO think there is a right and a wrong – but [they aren’t] black and white. The right and wrong comes in living obediently to how God specifically directs me, my family, or our team. The fact that it ISN’T black and white comes in recognizing that God doesn’t direct and organize cookie cutter lives, paths or ministries. Each one is as unique as the mix of individuals He brings together to do His work.”
Shortly after writing that, however, I remembered: when the Bible actually speaks of man doing what “is right” in his own eyes, it isn’t typically a good thing. That phrase, or something similar, occurs several times describing a historical period when Israel was ruled by judges. It was a cyclical time of ignoring God and falling away, capture, captivity and servitude, a calling out for rescue, provision of that rescue, finally followed by re-dedication to whole-heartedly seeking God… until life and ministry resumed, got busy and distracting, and the people once again started disregarding God’s path and plan.
I’ve also found that same grouping of words in Proverbs…
“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” (Proverbs 12.15, ESV)
“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart.” (Proverbs 21.2, ESV)
There’s a tension that exists between:
- clear standards to which I’m accountable whether they are good and right according to me. AND
- still perceiving then obeying God’s specific and unique will for me where I’m living obediently in accordance with personal ideas and convictions.
I must work to balance those two, recognizing and admitting those times when what I think is God’s right plan for me is really nothing more than that which is right in my own eyes.
Like Belarussian gymnast Svetlana Boguinskaya said, “Hard work is always hard work!”
I find myself still trying to dance, flip, leap and tumble away on a very narrow strip. Not physically, of course, but in maintaining a balance by seeking what is right and best and God’s plan for my family and our unique situation without falling into the trap of simply choosing what’s comfortable or expected and then calling it “God’s right plan for me.”
This time the stakes are enormously higher. A slip or a fall no longer results in skinned legs or a turned ankle, some tears, tenths of points deducted from a total score and a missed podium opportunity.
The importance of maintaining that balance while still contending graceFULLy in the myriads of circumstances common to this life could have much larger, longer, even eternally significant, impact.
How do you find that balance between discerning God’s right plan for you
rather than simply doing what is right in your own eyes?
– Richelle Wright, missionary in Niger, W. Africa