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Finding balance: Look at the big picture

From the Christian Science Sentinel - April 9, 2019

There I was, sitting on the couch, close to tears. “There has to be a better way. This just isn’t working,” I thought to myself. While I love each of the components of my life—a loving husband and two young children, professional responsibilities that are fulfilling and can flex around my responsibilities at home, and membership in a branch Church of Christ, Scientist, that feels like family—I was increasingly feeling overwhelmed, unsupported, and flat-out exhausted.

I don’t think I’m the only one feeling this way. In the last few years, I’ve seen an increasing number of articles about the disproportionate way in which women (especially mothers) carry the household and emotional load for their families, in addition to their professional responsibilities. The theme for International Women’s Day this year was #BalanceforBetter—a call for awareness and action to improve these and other gender disparities in society.

It’s an important issue, and it seems to me that underneath these calls for progress and change, whether on a personal or a collective level, is a universal desire for men and women to feel valued and supported—and to find an order and balance in day-to-day life that is unshakable regardless of circumstances.

As a lifelong Christian Scientist accustomed to praying about problems of every kind, I’ve found that lasting solutions come through prayer, so I had prayed about this problem in my own life. However, my prayers tended to be half praying and half telling God about the various things and people that needed to change if there was to be any hope of solving this issue.

Finally, frustrated by the feebleness of my own ability to solve the problem, I changed my approach to my prayers. I quieted the inner arguments and opened my heart to listen. And just as had always happened before with other issues, an answer came when I least expected it.

I was walking one day, earnestly reaching out to God in prayer, and mentally said, “I just don’t know how to make all the pieces fit together, God. Show me how this all works.” No sooner had I thought this than an idea came to me so clearly that it was as if someone were walking next to me and talking. It was along the lines of: “You don’t put together a jigsaw puzzle by just looking at the pieces separately. You do a puzzle by keeping your eyes on the big picture.”

In a moment, the answer was so clear to me. I had been spending my days staring at the pieces of my life—kids, chores, to-do lists, church work, professional responsibilities, marriage, friendships—as if they were disjointed puzzle pieces on a table. No matter how many times I turned them around and tried to force them together, they didn’t fit. I realized that I needed to stop dwelling on the seeming chaos in my life and instead look at my life from a spiritual perspective. 

Christ Jesus’ life offers a perfect example of how to do this. He was a busy guy: He mentored his disciples; traveled all over, teaching and preaching; had an active healing ministry. The Bible sometimes refers to Jesus taking time apart from others to pray, but more often tells of crowds of people following him and diverting him from his intended destination. Yet it doesn’t seem that these demands rattled him. He had a clear sense of man’s spiritual nature and unbreakable relation to God. For instance, he said, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30) and “I can of mine own self do nothing” (5:30). 

Jesus understood that he didn’t have to personally generate peace, order, and balance. Rather, he was a transparency for God’s love—which God expresses in all of us at every moment. It must have been this understanding that allowed him to feel the presence of balance and peace even in the midst of the most chaotic situations.

The task before me, then, was to gain a clearer understanding of the big picture—of God as my Father-Mother, and of myself as His, Her, loved child—and to constantly refer back to this big-picture view throughout my day, regardless of the circumstances that came up. While I haven’t yet demonstrated this to its fullest degree, one recent experience gave me a glimpse of how keeping one’s thought grounded in God, divine Spirit, helps maintain and restore order and balance. 

One particular morning, I was up unusually early and decided to seize the opportunity for some quiet time to pray. I was practically giddy at having so much focused time and feeling so alert in spite of the early hour (usually a challenge for me). But just as I began to study that week’s Bible Lesson (found in the Christian Science Quarterly), my son blearily stumbled into the room.

Familiar thoughts knocked at my mental door: “See, this is why I can’t ever get anything done!” Instead, though, I remembered the analogy of the puzzle pieces and the big picture—God’s infinite love, goodness, and harmony, which are reflected in His entire creation. The grumbling stopped instantly, and I felt a sense of calm just sweep over me. As I snuggled with my son, we began talking about God and praying together. The conversation was effortless, inspired, and holy for both of us. 

What had initially seemed to be a disruption was actually an opportunity to glimpse true balance: activity that is God-centered and God-inspired, with little to no trace of my own effort or willpower. The lines between the many pieces of my life faded away: It was no longer about the family piece fitting together (or not) with the prayer piece. It was simply a beautiful unfoldment of God, divine Love, embracing my son and me completely and meeting both our needs.

I learned that spiritual balance at its best is feeling and living our oneness with God. And that’s a possibility for each one of us, in every moment. 

A version of this article was published in The Christian Science Monitor’s Christian Science Perspective column, April 8, 2019.

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