I’ve been resting, which is good, but it hurts. I’ve had cramps, headaches, diarrhea, deeper depression, and a growing sense of failure. Most of this is because of adrenaline withdrawal, which often hits people who overwork and then stop suddenly. I know that I work a lot, too much. But I’ve been feeling that I want to return to overworking if this is how I feel at rest.
This is a minor symptom of my lifestyle, really. There are greater ones:
A hormone imbalance over the last decade.
Social instability as I do not fit in one culture or another.
Lack of control over my emotional state.
My family and I living in poverty for the last fifteen years.
Neighbors, police, and the violent screaming at me.
Threats and fines from the city.
Of course, my friends and family, who really love me, don’t like this at all. Everyone, including myself, would like to see me live a life of greater balance. God made us all to exist in a world of balance, of shalom, where we would have our needs met, the rest we need, positive companions and emotional strength to love.
My friends see that I am choosing not to live in that shalom, even though it is within my reach. They tell me to rest more, to take more breaks, to eat better, to participate in more joy, to write more, to spend more time with God. I have friends who tell me that I cannot save the world, that I am doing too much, that I need to delegate, that perhaps I should quit. After all, my health is at stake, and my family’s well-being.
The solution, of course, is simple. I just need to back off. I just need to say “no”.
I need to say “no” to the man who comes to me thirsty, when I have much to drink.
I need to say “no” to the woman who is hungry, when I have a cupboard and refrigerator full of food.
I need to say “no” to the family who is harassed and unable to sleep, even though I have a safe place where they can sleep.
I need to say “no” to the mentally ill, who just me to give them comfort.
I need to say “no” to those who have no opportunity for worship, and to not give them an opportunity to come before the Lord.
I need to say “no” to those who want to tell me their long story, to refuse to listen so that I cannot pray for them.
I need to say “no” to the sinner and the outcast, refuse to give them a place of safety.
My well-being is more important than saying “yes”. My health is more important than theirs. My rest is more essential than theirs.
The problem is that we do not live in a world of balance. If everyone lived balanced lives between work for ourselves and work for others, if we all lived out compassion and mercy, if we all gave people the benefit of the doubt and the kind of grace that God gives us all, if we all took our extra resources and shared with those in need around us, then we would have a world of shalom. But that’s not the kind of world we live in. We live in a world where criminals are punished, not rehabilitated. We live in a world where the poor are rejected and treated like garbage. We live in a world where cultural, ethnic and social differences result in poverty and death. We are far from the balance God created.
Because of this extreme imbalance, some must love more to make up for that. Because some do not have ample food or drink or clothing, others must give so that they might survive. Because most do not share of their wealth, some must share more, even out of their poverty. Because most do not offer grace, some must open their arms in welcome all the more. Because too many labor for little return, some must labor more so that they may rest.
It isn’t fair. But it is the way of Jesus.
Jesus healed the masses, even when balance required that he rest. Jesus walked hundreds of miles to go to those who had need. Jesus offered food out of his poverty. Jesus counselled in the middle of the night, and rose up early to pray. Jesus made himself a target to the authorities so that some might rest. Jesus surrendered his life so that others might live.
And Jesus told his followers that we are to live the same kind of life. “No one has greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” “Sell your possessions and give to the poor.” “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” “Surrender all that you have.” “Go from town to town, heal the sick, cast out demons, raise the dead and proclaim the kingdom.” “Blessed are you who are poor.” “Blessed are you when men speak ill of you.” Jesus wasn’t a great advocate of a life of balance.
The reward for this is that which cannot be seen. Jesus promises that a life of sacrifice and persecution due to love will have joy, but also mourning. That we will have a community of support amidst persecution. That we will have our needs met amidst poverty. And that we will have lives of comfort and peace and balance in a future time that is beyond our current resources. This is why this is called a life of faith. Because sacrificial love is for a pleasure that cannot be touched or even perceived with our senses.
If you live a life of balance, I do not begrudge you that. Good for you, as long as you give to those in need. In fact, know that I am a bit jealous of you. I wish that I could live a life of balance. But that is not my purpose in life.
Some think that I am trying to save the world. I am not so delusional. All I am trying to do is to help the person in front of me. And the next one. And the next one. To provide just a teeny bit more balance, a bit more shalom, in this world than when I came to it. If that means that if my health, my economics, my emotional state, my social standing or my life suffers because of it, then I just have to trust that God will make it worth it all.