Balance Requires a Strong Core
I used to be a competitive cheerleader in my high school days (that's me on the right). I am 5'1", so I was inevitably the flyer, the one on top that people throw around. My sister and I were both fliers on the same squad, so that drove my mom crazy because she had to worry about both of us falling. The two things I learned about how to stay up there without falling is to 1.) squeeze in all my muscles, especially my core and 2.) focus on something immovable and let the people under me balance me out. For good balance, I needed a strong core and a fixed focus. I've recently heard that there's no such thing as balance in life, but I think we each have some semblance of balance, or else we would fall over. Balance with a strong core and fixed focus not only keeps us upright, but it keeps us moving in the right direction.
Balance To Stand Upright
“She girds herself with strength, and strengthens her arms.” Proverbs 31:17 NKJV
I always thought this verse meant that the Proverbs 31 woman liked to hit the gym. That's my kind of woman! But as I keep reading, I realize she is totally out of my league: she sells real estate, cooks, sews clothes and curtains, and her family calls her blessed. I know nothing about buying land and surely can’t sew clothes, let alone sew a button onto a pair of pants. But I can relate to the whole strength thing. This verse really came alive to me when I came across this devotional while I was at the Refresh Summit: “The phrase ‘gird yourself’ usually refers to making your core strong…this area gives the rest of your body the stability it needs to perform better. The Proverbs 31 woman was diligent not only to make sure her core was strong (her physical being), more more important, she made sure that the core of her soul (her spiritual being) was being strengthened on a regular basis” (FCA Virtuous Woman: Serving & Teamwork, Session 1- Strength). She had a strong core, and therefore a strong foundation for her life.
A strong core is a strong foundation, but we can’t get a strong core without training. A Pilates instructor once said that our core has legs. This was a strange image to me until our class put it into practice.
He illustrated this point by telling the class to stand on two feet. Easy. I want you to physically do this next exercise as you read this: lift one foot an inch off the ground. Still easy, but now your core is engaged. Lift that foot in front of you as high as you can while staying steady. This should be harder. You can feel your core trying to keep you centered. Now swing that leg all around like it’s in a wind storm. Much more difficult, right? This exercise is meant to improve and strengthen your core. Your legs throw you off balance, but they also help you get stronger and stand firm when you’re in an unstable environment.
Life itself is an unstable environment. Circumstances are always changing, people try to throw us off balance. When Jesus is the core of our life, these tests and hardships only prove to make our faith stronger and more stable. We make Jesus the core of our life by fixing our focus on him: “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2, ESV).
When we look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, and we find balance. I tend to jump into activities and commitments too quickly, and then my life feels chaotic and out of balance. I put more energy and focus into my legs instead of my core and end up falling over. Usually this means I physically get sick because I am doing too much and my core priorities aren’t in order. Jesus didn’t say that we need to be acrobats, he said we need to stand firm: “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:13, ESV). Fix your focus on Jesus, and the changing circumstances in life will not pull you down. Instead, they will serve to strengthen your core and help you stand firm on the solid ground of faith in Christ.
Balance to Keep Moving
A strong core and fixed focus not only keep us standing upright, but they keep us moving. Our core has legs not just to stand, but to move. First, we need to get our core priorities straight by focusing on Jesus. We have to stand before we can learn to walk. When my life feels balanced, I feel like I can actually move forward, like I am being productive and using the gifts the Lord gave me for my own joy and to serve others.
I do need to point out that productivity looks different in each season of life. When my daughter was a newborn, having balance, moving forward and being productive looks different than it does today. Moving forward or being productive meant I successfully put her down for a nap, made a meal, or had a conversation with my husband without snapping at him. Those small feats made me feel like superwoman. My life felt chaotic, but I found a bit of balance in Jesus through listening to worship music or thanking God for 5 minutes of silence. I could keep moving on with the day without falling over with sleep deprivation and stress. And eventually as she got older, God brought me to a different season. I left the newborn season a little stronger and firmer in faith.
Each season of life brings with it a different terrain, but as long as we fix our focus on the Lord we can stay get stronger, stay upright, and keep moving. Our Hebrews 12:2 from above says we look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. We only need to step back one verse to see that we fix our eyes on Jesus as we “run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1, ESV). We can run because we have someone to run towards. We have our eyes on the prize! Run towards Christ “with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15, ESV). “And how beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news” (Romans 10:15b, ESV)!
Life without balance and core priorities can be filled with anxiety and discontentment, but Jesus says to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33, ESV). Seek Jesus first, seek to have a strong core first, and life will fall into place.
Yes, we can have balance. We need to have balance. Balance is not bad. Balance keeps us standing firm, and it keeps us moving forward.
Where is your life out of balance?
How can you step back and seek Jesus?
Are you standing firm but afraid to move forward? Who or what are you moving towards?