I recently visited the William & Mary Wellness Center for a presentation on how they help students create a culture of wellness. After the presentation, someone asked about how to create work-life balance. The presenter said the Wellness Center does not teach work-life balance, because work-life balance is a myth – something that can never be achieved because we can never perfectly balance our work life and our personal life. He went a step further to suggest that attempting to achieve work-life balance is quite unhealthy because it places pressure upon us in each arena. One will never spend an equal amount of time in either arena, and attempts to create a one-for-one balance only create more stress and anxiety.
Instead, what he teaches is work-life harmony. He knows that we will never achieve, and arguably should never desire, a balance of the two arenas. But the two arenas can work in harmony in such a way to create a more happy, healthy lifestyle. As an example, the presenter talked about an orchestra. If you tried to work on balance within an orchestra, every instrument would sound equally, making for a horrible racket. But if each instrument plays in harmony with one another – well, then you have a masterpiece!
I have been wondering if the same might be true with our spiritual life. Now I will be the first admit, I would love to see my parishioners at church every Sunday – partially because I know how healing and life-giving communal worship can be, but also partially because I just like my parishioners so much. Church is more fun when everyone is there. But using the harmony model, I think our spiritual life needs a sense of harmony too. We need to create space for worship, learning, service, and outreach. We need to find time for fellowship, formation, and evangelism. We need to be sure we are both being fed and feeding others at church. But we need to do that in a way that creates harmony in our lives.
Now I imagine some of you are thinking, “Awesome, my rector just said I don’t have to come to church as much so that my life is more in harmony.” And maybe that is true for you. But I suspect that the opposite may be true. My guess is that for many of us, our spiritual life is not in harmony with the rest of life: we aren’t finding time for formation, for worship, or for service. The good news is that I am not suggesting you find balance – just harmony. I remember complaining once to my Spiritual Director that with young children and a busy work life and a desire to be present to my husband, my prayer life was suffering – I just wasn’t praying like I used to. Gracefully, he suggested that I shouldn’t worry about praying in a certain way – as if only praying the Daily Office everyday is real prayer. He suggested something much more harmonious in life. “Perhaps at this stage of life, the best you can expect is a prayer spoken at a stop light, or an exhausted thank you before drifting off to sleep.” We all struggle with spiritual harmony. I wonder what solutions are working for you today. How are you finding harmony with work, life, and God?