balancebal-ance • noun: stability produced by even distribution of weight on each side of the vertical axis; mental and emotional steadiness

A Cautionary Tale about Balance

We know a couple who grew up in the church. They attended services faithfully, got baptized, took the purity pledge, enrolled in a Christian college, and seemed to have their spiritual act together before they graduated from high school.

When they went away to college, they experimented with everything the church had told them to avoid growing up: rock-n-roll, dancing, alcohol, partying, and pre-marital sex. She got pregnant, they married, and dropped out of college. Three years later, they had a second child. They returned to church, chastised, chastened, and contrite.

They started working hard to make up for all their mistakes. Each time the nominating committee called, they accepted the task. They broke all their rock-n-roll records and pitched them in the garbage. As their children grew older, they seemed to separate themselves even more from the world. They quit eating meat and wouldn’t allow their children to eat sugar or read fiction books. She started to only wear dresses, and insisted that her daughter do likewise. They had no television, and wouldn’t let their children watch movies. Only one radio station played in their house—a carefully selected Christian radio station.

I felt as if each successive change in their lifestyle stemmed from the need to sacrifice something they enjoyed to prove to God that they repented for the sins of their youths. But I didn’t want to pry or judge, so I said nothing.

We moved away about this time, but I’ve heard over the years that their children left home as soon as they could. They rejected anything having to do with God. We haven’t heard from the parents in years. All of their rules did nothing to bring their children to God. The price they paid for their penance was losing relationship with their children.

Why Jesus Came

balanceIn retrospect, I should have shared with them what I have learned. Jesus didn’t come to make sure that we kept rules. He came so that he could restore relationships between God and man. From the fall in the Garden of Eden to the birth in Bethlehem, God struggled to help his childish people understand his great love and plan for them. He used rules and regulations to help them learn to live better. The Ten Commandments gave us a blueprint for right living. He revealed his character through the tabernacle, miracles, and his prophets.

Most of the time, we humans didn’t get it. We focused on the rules and regulations, adding our own peculiar twists as time went on. Ultimately, he sent his Son to rescue us from ourselves. He modeled a right relationship with God, and invited us to join his kingdom of peace and love. His death on the cross did away with the tabernacle, priesthood, and sacrifices—which had pointed the way to his plan all along.

We can’t restore relationship through religion. Adhering to a list of things we should and shouldn’t do will simply give us empty things to cross off the list—not a relationship with a Savior. Yes, God desires our obedience—but to him, not to a church-imposed set of rules.

I confess, I grew up in a fairly conservative congregation that focused more on rules than relationship. You could even say I suffer from closet legalism and struggle to not judge those who don’t do everything on my secret list rules and regulations. The more time I spend studying my Bible and getting to know my Savior, the more I realize that Jesus came to save me from my judgmental self.

Extreme Love

God is a God of order and balance—look at nature and you’ll see evidence of this. Read the story of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42) and you’ll understand his desire for intimate relationships with us. Read the book of John to see how passionately extreme God’s love is for us.

Whatever you do, remember that God delights in balance. A church or a religion can’t save you, give you rest, or help you change. Only God can do that. I invite you to explore relationship with God—he longs to give you rest. Tomorrow I’ll share resources for deepening your relationship with Jesus.

A church or a religion can't save you, give you rest, or help you change. Click To Tweet

Nurture Yourself Takeaway #29—Seek God (not church) to restore balance in your life.

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13 Comments

  1. Confessing along with you to that “closet legalism” tendency.
    It’s such a satisfying thing to be able to check off boxes and have a hand in my own righteousness. And it makes it so easy to “discern” who the “real” Christians are. . . .
    It’s good that we’re both in the process of outgrowing that!
    Michele Morin recently posted…Musings — October 2017My Profile

  2. So true. I am trying to find balance for my daughter. I want her to draw closer to God, but I don’t want to hit her with a bunch of rules. I want her to fall in love with Him. Please keep her in your prayers. I know she has accepted the Lord as her Savior. I am praying she gives her whole life to Him.
    Mary Hill recently posted…I Will Follow You, JesusMy Profile

  3. What a great post! My dad said he was raised by the army and the Methodist church. I think that impacted his parenting style. The flipside was me growing up during the feel good era of Jesus freaks and free love. You are so right about balance, and wrapping our heads and hearts around Jesus longing more for relationships than simply rule followers. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. Such a sad story! It’s so important to find balance and the right focus. Thank you for this reminder and for sharing your honest struggles with balance!

  5. I really loved this, Anita. We can try so hard and yet lose much when we can’t learn to let go and trust God with our loved ones. It is hard for sure but he is so faithful. And we can’t save others we can only love them. The balance has always been a struggle for me too.

  6. I was just talking with one of my sons about relationship over religion. He’s chaffing about a group in college that seems more interested in religion over relationship. It’s hard to discuss relationship with people who can’t get past the rules! Thank you for your post on relationship – and finding that balance that leads to a healthy soul and a healthy family!

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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