I married my high school sweetheart. Frank was the lead guitarist in a local band, two years older than I, a rebel with a cause, and he was hopelessly in love with me. The good news…I felt the same. I was smitten, and at the age of nineteen I stood before God, friends, and family and promised to love him forever. I always have and I always will, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t experienced bumps along the way. As I mentioned, we were practically kids when we recited our vows. We literally grew up together. In the sixteen years we’ve been married, we’ve traveled the world, changed jobs a half dozen times, lived in four states, flipped eight houses, had three children, adopted a fourth, fought off a debilitating disease, and clearly heard the call to fulltime ministry, which required a 70 percent pay decrease.
Of all that we’ve experienced, the call to ministry was by far the most challenging, and it wasn’t because of the reduction in our finances.
Frank and I say it all the time: Ministry is messy! A life in ministry means you commit to fuse the love of Jesus with the calamity of the human race. If you made ministry your life’s calling with the expectation it would be all praise and worship and reciting the prayer of salvation to repentant souls, you’re in for an eye-opening revelation. Those things do happen, of course, but that’s only about five percent (or less) of what you actually do.
A life in ministry means talking a teen through suicidal thoughts at 2 a.m. It means cutting your date night short to rush to the hospital to comfort parents whose child has fallen ill. It means attending half a dozen graduation ceremonies in the spring, and personalizing a million Christmas cards during the holidays. Your ministry can and will take over your life.
For too many years, Frank and I struggled to balance our home life with our call to ministry. We tried to explain our busyness to our kids and justify our decisions through a lens of grace. God sacrificed everything for us, so shouldn’t we be willing to give Him our all? The answer to that question is a resounding, “Yes!” But what does it mean to “give Him our all”?
A few years ago, Frank came home from the church offices quite late, around 9 p.m. I was sitting at the bar in our kitchen trying to keep my eyes open as I edited a large group script for our children’s ministry. I had put my two little ones to bed and rented a movie to entertain my oldest so I could play catch up on some ministry deadlines. The problem: this had been our family’s pattern for about three weeks straight. Frank looked at me and said: “I don’t think this is what God meant for us. Something has to give. What are we doing?” I remember replying, “Well, when you find a recipe for ministry and family, I’ll be the first to drink the Kool-Aid.”
Little did I know how he would rise to the challenge. Frank got to work on a formula to live by.
At first, it seemed balance between ministry, family, and business endeavors was just the equilibrium our young lives needed. But trying to achieve balance is more than a fool’s errand. Making balance the goal distracted us from having a plan when things inevitably got out of balance.
No, this new approach to life in ministry was better. It helped us establish guidelines to live by. It set clear boundaries and expectations. It showed us that balance is nothing more than a myth, but that there’s something even better for embracing that full and abundant life Jesus came to give us. We call it the, “When This, Then That” formula.
To read more about this simple approach to thriving in the tension of ministry, work, and life, please visit MythofBalance.com. Plus, sign up for The Myth of Balance Workshop Series that’s currently underway—it’s not too late to sign up! Join Frank Bealer in this eight-week interactive group designed to help you turn the pressure of work and life into a win for your family and your ministry.
This article was adapted from the book The Myth of Balance.