What Does It Mean To Be A People of Balance?

Our March 2018 theme is balance.

When we talk of balance, it’s natural for calm and rest to be the first things that come to mind. There’s no getting around it: many of us are tired. We’re overworked, over-busy, over-committed. Striving and stress have become the badges we wear to prove that we are of worth. We are often so weighed down by responsibility and worry that it only takes one drop of something unexpected to tip us over. So, yes, we long for rest. Yes, we want less to manage and juggle. Yes, we need balance’s reminder that a place of calm and peace is possible.

And yet, pointing us to peace and calm is not all that balance is about. Remembering this is at the center of this month’s work. Indeed, there is no better month than March to help us embrace balance’s many meanings.

For instance, take the religious holidays in March. Lent reminds us that balance is a place for reassessment, renewal, preparation, and even repentance. It honors the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert preparing for his ministry and the path to the cross. The balance he sought in the desert was not that of restful escape, but that restorative re-centering. Balance got him ready, rather than simply offering him relief. Passover also puts its own spin on balance. It is a time to retell the story of the exodus of the Jews from Egypt after centuries of slavery. For it, balance is a matter of remembering, of pausing to put yourself back into a story that connects you with others and anchors you in a counter-cultural narrative. During Passover, the balance one finds is not that of calm but that of reconnection. There’s also Ostara, the Pagan celebration of the Vernal Equinox. It honors the balance of day and night, but more importantly, it celebrates the way this balance is a tipping point on the way to Spring. It’s a reminder that still points are rarely still. They are a place of turning, space where shifts happen, and new life emerges. And finally, the Hindu holiday of Holi also needs to be held up, with its ritual of restoring one’s belief in the power of good over evil. It’s a reminder that balance and calm aren’t just found by taking a break from life, but by trusting in its goodness once again.

March is also the month in which we honor many people who gave their lives to the cause of justice. The list is large:

These anniversaries remind us that being a “people of balance” is often the opposite of keeping things calm. To move toward a balance of justice, we have to upset the current state of things. Oppressive systems need to be challenged and toppled. We need to sacrifice our calm and comfort, and instead “go all in.” Achieving a balance of equality requires us to be purposefully off-balance with our culture, or as Martin Luther King Jr. said, we need people who are “maladjusted.” Being out of sync with “the way things are” is the first step toward a better balance for all.

Add all this up and suddenly “balance” takes on a new meaning. It takes on many new meanings. The observances of March remind us that balance is not simply a destination, but also a place of invitation. It’s not a static space of peace, as much as a still point on which we pivot and turn to something new. It’s not just about rest, but about resting up for a journey. Yes, balance allows us to catch our breath, but it’s also about finding our center so we can end all our aimless wandering around. It’s fine to think of balance by imagining the Buddha sitting peacefully under a tree, but we can’t let that overshadow the image of a diver balancing way up there on her diving board, pausing to re-gain her composure and courage so she can leap and go “all in.”

Another way to put all this is to ask, “What is your balance for?” Maybe instead of asking each other, “Have you found balance?” we need to ask “Where is your balance taking you?” Yes, balance sometimes can be an end in itself, but this month and its observances remind us that more often balance is a means to a greater end. In other words, maybe balance isn’t the prize but the springboard. Maybe balance isn’t the goal, but the source of strength that gets us where we need to go.

Which means that our most important questions this month might actually be, “Do you know where you’re trying to get to?” and “Which kind of balance will help you along your way?”

Excerpt from Soul Matters curriculum.