Posted by: Mike Willoughby | October 12, 2010

Work-Life Balance? (Part 2)

Last week I proposed we all re-think the way we think of the times when we are “at work” and take a more integrated view of professional life and personal life.  I think the term “work-life balance” implies that work is different than life.  For most of us, a work day is made up of hundreds or perhaps thousands of human interactions.  Real life happens at work every day!  However, even with an integrated view of life that acknowledges real life and real ministry happens at work, we still need to prioritize how we spend our time and energies so we are good stewards of the most precious commodity God gives us – time.

As I said last week, I don’t believe the answer is found in a formula – I believe the answer is found in a life.  The life of Jesus provides a good model for us to examine in seeking balance and it’s comforting to me to know that he struggled at times to achieve balance!

First, I need to perform a “heart check” on myself and determine what I am seeking to accomplish with my life.  If my primary objective is to arrange my schedule to benefit myself, I will never achieve balance.  The unhappiest people I know have enshrined themselves at the center of their own existence and seek to orient everything including their schedules around their self-interests.  These people are never satisfied with the amount and quality of “me-time” and seem to constantly feel disadvantaged by the demands of their calendars.  Jesus said he “came not to be served, but to serve” and his calendar reflected his “others-first” orientation.  In contrast to the “me-first” people mentioned above, my experience is that “others-first” people are the most content and happy folks I know and they seem to consistently feel that life is in balance. 

Ironically, these “others-first” folks also seem from the outside to have the most insane schedules.  Their calendars are full of business engagements, ministry work and social time with friends.  They manage to be involved in the lives of their children and grandchildren where they seem to always be at all the important kid events and they still make quality time for their spouse.  They are at multiple places at once and always with a smile on their face seemingly unstressed by the pace of their life.  The only insight I have into how these folks pull it off comes from my own hit-or-miss experience trying to be an “others-first” person.  The rewards of serving others and the motivation I receive from wanting to “be there” for the people in my life seems to empower me to solve most of my work-life balance problems one day at a time.  The busier I am serving others, the more content and balanced I feel.  The times when I slip back into “me-first” mode are the times I start to become unhappy and bitter about the demands of my schedule.  I aspire to be more of an “others-first” man.

Warning – I also have to recognize that there are times when I need to take care of myself.  Note that I am critical of making my primary objective self-service.  There are times when I simply have to get away for some “me-time.”  Once again Jesus provides an example for me to follow.  There are numerous times recorded in the Gospels where Jesus feels the need to escape from the demands of ministry and even the company of his closest friends and get some “me-time.”  Most often his “me-time” was spend recharging his batteries in prayer and meditation such as in Mark 1:29-37:

 And immediately after they came out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever; and immediately they spoke to Jesus about her. And He came to her and raised her up, taking her by the hand, and the fever left her, and she waited on them. When evening came, after the sun had set, they began bringing to Him all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city had gathered at the door. And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was.  In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.  Simon and his companions searched for Him; they found Him, and said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.”

Sometimes even when everyone is looking for you to be there for them, you need to take some time to recharge your batteries.  Many of you already know my recharge time comes in the seat of a tractor.  It’s amazing what a couple of hours mowing grass in the pasture or moving a pile of dirt with the front-end loader will do to put things in perspective for me.  Perhaps the relatively low brain cycles required by most tractor work allow me to think through difficult problems, meditate on my place in the world or have long conversations with God.  I know this time connects me with my summers working “on the farm” and to my relationship with my grandfather which helps to center me.  Perhaps it’s just my “happy-place” and that’s OK.  Jesus doesn’t ask me to eliminate myself from consideration, he just asks me to place my self-interests in the back of the queue.

Finally, I need to remember that Jesus placed a very high priority on having a good time with friends, family and even new acquaintances.  In fact, Jesus placed such an emphasis on having a good time as worked on “serious ministry” that he drew criticism from the religious leaders of the time.  Luke records this confrontation with these religious leaders in Luke 7:31-34:

To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like?  They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,

   ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
   we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’

For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’  The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’

Seems to me that Jesus was not offended in the least to be accused of enjoying time getting to know some searching sinners.  Those seekers found out that Jesus came to deliver on the promise of a full and rich life.

In the way of application, I’ll leave you with the real-world example of one of my best friends.  Jim is a consummate “others-first” shepherd who is the most likely one of us to be visiting a sick church member, leading an early morning prayer group, organizing a fellowship lunch, encouraging someone who is down or countless other acts of service.  Jim’s life is full of ministry to others.  Jim also loves to play golf.  I believe the golf course is Jim’s equivalent of my pasture and I believe Jim gets centered from his time on the course.  I also know he gets the biggest kick from playing with friends, family or even new acquaintances.  I have talked many people who have played golf with him and everyone always comments on the fun they have while on the course with him.  I don’t recall ever hearing who comes out ahead on the scorecard, but I know who wins every time – everyone else in the group.  Can you be serious about ministry and still have fun doing it with a grin on your face?  Jesus did and so does Jim.

WWJD about work-life balance?  Put others first!  This week, I’m going to try to achieve some balance in my life by putting others first on my professional and personal calendars because that’s WJWD!

Until next week,

Meet me at the intersection!

Previous Intersections Articles
Work-Life Balance? (Part 1) My Friend Mulligan Winding Roads


  1. “Others-first” equals Mike Willoughby, Thanks for your example!

    • Thanks, bro! Takes one to know one and if I hadn’t already used you in Part 1, you would have been featured in Part 2!

  2. Thanks Mike, I really appreciated your comments
    in Work-Life Balance Part2. Please continue to
    update me & Ron, we both need & enjoy reading
    your articles!

  3. Mike,

    Congrats on the one-year mark of Intersections. Keep writing and sharing!

    Your brother,


    • Thanks, Tim! You and Thinking Out Loud inspired me to start Intersections. I think you might remember that conversation last October when you encouraged me to take the plunge into the blogosphere. Thanks for your constant enouragement. Still praying for Willard, too!

  4. Mike,

    Excellent perspective on Jesus’ approach to time management and service to others. Thanks for devoting the time to help keep us all balanced!

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