April 9, 2015

Sacred Balance

At first Dale wondered if the notes of love she had been placing in her son Chase’s lunch box each day were making any difference. But she now knew they were.

One day as Dale opened Chase’s lunch box, she found only crumbs and a half-eaten carrot. “Where’s your note, Chase?” she asked.

He looked sheepish. “Sorry, Mom,” he said. “I gave it to Jimmy. He never gets a note, so I thought I could share mine with him.”

Dale Hanson Bourke describes experiences such as this as “sacred moments.”

Have you ever stopped to ask the question What is “sacred”?

Sabbath is a
sacred day. We term Sabbath afternoon concerts as sacred. When a person receives a call from the Lord for ministry, it is sacred.

But what does it all mean? Are we to be sacred only on certain days of the week or in certain places? Are only particular occupations sacred?

As a society and as a church we have compartmentalized our lives. We’ve created neat, tidy file folders for work, school, play, religion, family. Everything contained within the religion folder is “sacred.” Everything that falls outside of the sacred confines of that folder is “secular.” Thus, in our attempts to be God’s sacred, holy people, we overcommit ourselves to those “sacred” activities, because the more of those in which we participate, the holier we think we are. Within this compartmentalization, however, we’ve lost sight of how God interacts with us through every area of our lives.

It’s not the activities in which we participate that make us sacred.
It’s who we are while participating in those activities that determines our holiness. It’s this understanding that helps restore balance to our lives.

Our Sacred Calling

The concept of
sacred is described throughout the Old Testament. Whenever the word sacred is used, most often it is translated from a derivative of the Hebrew verb qadash, meaning “holy.” In our modern mode of thinking, we often view holy as pertaining to those people who have somehow attained a higher level of “perfection” than we have. If asked if we are “holy,” the typical Christian’s response is “no.” It’s as if holiness is an unreachable standard that we haven’t quite attained.

Holiness can be defined as “separation, apartness, withdrawal,”2 but it can also be defined as “the quality of persons or things that can be brought near or into God’s presence.”3 These two definitions give us a fuller understanding of this concept.35 1

In the Old Testament, God dwells
among His people through the earthly sanctuary (see Lev. 26:11-13). Through Christ, He dwelt with us (see Matt. 1:23). God’s ultimate goal, however, was to dwell in us: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? . . . God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Cor. 3:16, 17, NRSV; see also 1 Peter 2:5).4

But how, you may ask, is that understanding going to help me balance all of my file folders?

The Call to Balance

When we allow faith to speak to us in our work, our play, in every domain of our life, our lives can become more balanced and fulfilling. Why? Because we will realize that God wants to do a grand, special work
in us through our everyday lives (see 1 Cor. 10:31).

“The spiritual saint never believes circumstances to be haphazard, or thinks of his life as secular and sacred; he sees everything he is dumped down in as the means of securing the knowledge of Jesus Christ. There is a reckless abandonment about him. The Holy Spirit is determined that we shall realize Jesus Christ in every domain of life.”

My mom died in May 2014. She spent her last year of life unable to walk, talk, read, or write because of a stroke. She suffered greatly; the Lord and I had many conversations about that. But He got my attention one evening while at her assisted living center’s Christmas party. One of the other residents’ daughters said to me, “Whenever I look into your mother’s face, I see the face of Jesus.” I was reminded that even though Mom couldn’t
do anything, it was who she was that spoke volumes to others.

Work and Play as Sacred

A Princeton University sociologist of religion asked Christians who were
not pastors if religious beliefs had influenced their career. A great majority answered in the negative. Most did not think of their work as a calling.6

Work is one area of our lives in which we often have difficulty allowing faith to speak to us. Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin, in his book
Being God’s Partner: How to Find the Hidden Link Between Spirituality and Your Work, writes: “We rarely let those various compartments of our lives speak to each other or touch each other. We do our best to keep religion insulated from the rest of our life and the rest of the week. . . . As a result, our lives are often empty, unsatisfying, frustrating.”7

Whether you are a doctor, a warehouse worker, a business executive, or a homemaker, where do you find partnership with God in your work? Where do you find satisfaction? Where do you sense the sacred? No matter your occupation, God has set you apart to live a holy, sacred life in all its domains because His Spirit lives within you.

Play is another area in which we have difficulty. All of our time is God’s, so what we do in our leisure time is as important to God as what we do in our work time.

“Play is more than just nonwork. . . . It is a time when we forget our problems for a while and remember who we are. Play is more than just a game. It is where you recognize again the supreme importance of life itself. . . . Is it so small a thing to take time to remember, to blow out candles on a birthday cake, to celebrate a friendship, or a lifetime? To take time to read, to listen, or to dream, to let your mind and heart be quiet for a while? . . . Is it so small a thing to stop and hear God’s voice to us, and begin anew from wherever we are?”

Jesus is a prime example of rest and play. In spite of all the people around Him who were starving for physical and spiritual healing, He took time to go to Mary and Martha’s home to rest. He rested in the boat with His disciples. He took time away from the crowds and told His disciples to do so as well. He must also have known how to play. Children loved Him. And His mission was a celebration of more abundant life (see John 10:10).

Partnering With God

Ministry roles within God’s church are sacred callings. Sabbath is holy. Scripture and Ellen White testify to this. I do not attempt to take away from that sacredness. Sacredness and holiness, however, are not confined only to those roles and that day. Thus, we can
all say of ourselves, “I will be God’s partner in all areas of my life: with my spouse, my children, my church, my coworkers, my leisure time, my health. As a temple of the Holy Spirit, my entire life is sacred.”

So how can I live in sacred balance? How can I remember that
all of my life is sacred? How can I live each moment gripped by the presence of God?

Your child’s (or spouse’s) lunch box might be a good place to start.

  1. Excerpted from Dale Hanson Bourke, Everyday Miracles: Holy Moments in a Mother’s Day (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1989), pp. 129-131.
  2. F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006),pp. 871-874.
  3. Friberg’s Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testmament.
  4. Bible texts attributed to NRSV are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. Used by permission.
  5. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (Grand Rapids: Discovery House Publishers, 1992), July 11.
  6. Jeffrey K. Salkin, Being God’s Partner: How to Find the Hidden Link Between Spirituality and Your Work (Woodstock, Vt.: Jewish Lights Publishing, 1994), p. 34.
  7. Ibid., p. 31.
  8. Tim Hansel, When I Relax, I Feel Guilty (Elgin, Ill.: David C. Cook Pub. Co., 1979), pp. 63, 64.