As I mentioned last week I had the great joy of spending a few days recently on retreat with colleagues from all over the country. One of the key thoughts that emerged during the week was that of embracing the concept of ebb and flow in our life and work. The speaker challenged us not to seek something that will probably never exist – a perfect work life balance throughout the year. Instead, he encouraged us to live a life where we realise that there will be times of great busyness (‘flow’), but also times of rest and restoration (‘ebb’). The key is having the inner resources to survive and flourish during those ‘flow’ moments, which are developed and nourished through our ‘ebb’ times.
It strikes me that this is a thoroughly healthy way to view life. We will have times of great stress – indeed what defines us as human beings and followers of Jesus is how we respond during these times, when everything feels like it might be coming apart at the seams. Having a depth of character and Jesus relationship creates an inner fulcrum around which all else may swirl. We are centred, and thus we survive.
The question I’m more likely to face is whether I have the discipline in place to seek out and prioritise those moments of ‘ebb’. I’m good at busy. I’m not so great at stopping. Ask Kay, when I’m checking work emails at stupid times of the day! I’m going to be moving into a very different kind of life in the next few months where there will be regularly enforced periods of rest (school holidays) and many more days of extreme busyness (term time!). Avoiding the temptation to simply stop and do nothing, which after all isn’t probably that healthy, is crucial – instead choosing to use the time and space to intentionally rest and refresh. I’ve got to think how I best use my time. How do I surround myself with people who help me to have the right balance in place? Which community am I part of will hold me accountable to the desire I have to embrace this?
So. ‘flow’ isn’t intrinsically bad, nor ‘ebb’ intrinsically good – such a false dichotomy means that we lose site that God is at work at all times in all things.
Much more essential, therefore, is loving and embracing every moment of life – living it to the fullest, as somebody once said…