Balancing Act

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There’s no such thing as perfect balance – for human beings, anyway. Some Olympians or other world-class performers may be able to achieve perfection for a single routine, a crystalline moment. But we cannot live in an exactly balanced state. It’s always an active rebalancing, one step this way or that. It’s true with ethical decisions, lifestyle choices, and everyday activities.

And sometimes we get so off-kilter we crash, and have to start all over again.

Trees are more like us in this way. They all search for the sunlight and try to grow straight, but a lot depends on their inner substance and immediate surroundings. We live on a hill in the midst of 100-year-old oaks and tall pines. Between and hill and an overarching canopy, young trees do the best they can. We have thinned out some faster-growing pines so they won’t overtake the oaks fifty years from now, but still (just like with people), growing straight and tall is an lifelong art.

And sometimes there are catastrophes, like a giant limb or tree trunk crashing down on its neighbors. (This is true for people, too.) That’s when perfect balance is the hardest. In that situation, balance is not even desired. In order to sort out the chaos and support life in the community, the broken limb needs to come all the way down, instead of dangling evenly in midair. That’s the only way new growth is possible, so that tree and the woods can live again.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

Seeker — Finder — Seeker

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Years ago, people used to say the word “seeker” for those who chose not to be affiliated with a church. At first that sounded like a good term to me, since I thought of people who are seeking God, or who are seeking a faith community of some kind in which to belong. But soon the word began to give off a whiff of judgment: were we church people implying they were seeking something that we had found? If they were “seekers,” were we “finders?”door open to world

These past ten years or so, I’ve gotten to know some people who are “spiritual but not religious” (another potentially troublesome phrase). Some are my closest friends, in fact. I’ve discovered that they are seeking but also finding. For some, it’s more a matter of language: “the universe” instead of “God,” for instance. That’s a different twist on theology than my own version, but so is the theology of many people who use the same “God” words as I do.

And then there are some remarkable people I’ve grown close to in the church who are “seekers – finders – seekers.” They have an insatiable hunger for knowing God more closely and following Jesus more authentically. So they seek deepening experiences of the divine, have real encounters with the biblical and cosmic God, and then find themselves seeking even greater authenticity as people of faith. They ask questions and find answers, which lead to more questions of a truer nature.

Long ago, I thought that goodness was the primary characteristic of a Christian, but I gave that up. Now I think it is openness. Openness to seeking, then finding, then seeking once more. God is pretty cosmic, after all, and we’re such limited creatures.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub