Work-life balance has been an en vogue topic for centuries, but ever since the tech-boom hit, we’ve the idea has become a focus for just about everyone who owns a screen. Efficiency gurus, busy parents, entrepreneurs, and even young children pipe in, humming the same mantra as the overworked adults in their lives that goes like this:
“A life well-lived is balanced.”
Form a secular perspective, having balance seems logical. Our work and play should have equal time to support our general well-being. The two should work together to build healthy lives. No one should be greater than the other, otherwise, imbalances will occur that cause unwanted stress, pressure, and depression.
But that’s not what the Saints had.
Let’s examine the lives of some of our holiest brothers and sisters from a work-life balance perspective, shall we?
We begin with Jesus Christ Himself. While the first 30 years of His life are virtually non-existent from a historical perspective, we know that during this time He moved from Bethlehem to Egypt to escape the deathly clutches of King Herod. He remained there for several years. When it was safe for Him to return, He resided in Nazareth where work and community life became His norm. He attended the Jewish synagog and practiced with fidelity the mosaic law.
At this point we could say Jesus was living the life-balance dream– He had religion, family, community, work, and likely a few hobbies. Most importantly, he had all of those things in their proper order.
But that’s not the crucible where Saints are forged.
When Jesus began His public ministry, he tipped the scales. He no longer balanced work and life– he burdened Himself with the weight of His mission. He let His goal for souls take precedent over any inclination toward living a regular lifestyle.
His work was no longer in the workshop with St. Jospeh, but in the preaching to and healing of souls.
His family was no longer his genealogy, but his spiritual disciples.
His community was no longer Nazareth, nor merely the Jews, but the entire world throughout time and space, pagans included.
He was no longer a product of His surroundings, but a catalyst to a new beginning for all who crossed His path.
Jesus had no work-life balance. He was driven toward something greater.
St. Paul is probably one of the greatest imitators of Christ in this respect. He left his “balanced” position as a merchant after being blinded by Jesus on his way to Demascus. After three years of preparation and fasting, he worked tirelessly to build and unite the early Church.
Saint John Baptist De La Salle left his comfortable position as a cantor in the French diocese to dedicate his life to educating the poor, and consequently starting a religious order of men to help preach the Gospel through teaching.
Mother Theresa was granted permission to leave her balanced life as a teacher order in Loretto to serve the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, India.
St. Dominic was known to only ever speak about God or with Him.
Jesus and His Saints had zero balance. On the contrary, they allowed the Holy Spirit to fill them with such ardent zeal that they broke the scales entirely. This allowed them to walk upon the earth with an elevated sense of accomplishment, for it was no longer they who lived, but Christ within them (Gal. 2:20). Furthermore, it was no longer they who strived for personal goals, but Christ and His work. This receptivity of grace and the consequent outpouring of charity made work-life balance impossible.
Zeal is the timeless mold that breaks the work-life balance myth. When we are zealous for anything but Christ, we throw ourselves onto the worldly rat race where man’s vision is reduced to, as Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen put it, “a single dimension… limited to the surface of the earth– a plane wherein he moves not up to God or down to Satan, but only to the right or the left” (Peace of Soul).
There’s no peace in balance, only tension and pressure. Peace can only come through an elevated acceptance of, and obedience to, the Divine working through us.
The saints imitated Christ through prayer, fasting, the Sacraments, and mission. As a result, they were rewarded with crosses…
Should we not do the same?