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In Search of a Balanced Life

June 17th, 2013by Sr. Marla Gipson

desert sceneI literally just returned from vacation to the southwestern part of the United States. I arrived home at around midnight and have been back into ministry with three meetings so far today (as I write this).  This trip was a first in a long time for me. It was strictly for the purpose of play. My life has usually been home visits (my family lives further away), school during slow times in ministry (typically in the summer), trips for conferences, and silent retreats. This vacation was a different concept from any of these other travels or engagements. It was a complete break from routine. And, in my opinion, it is something we should all do every once in awhile.

Recently on the news there was a story that Americans are taking less and less vacation. This is a more recent phenomenon. Only fifty years ago vacations were a family staple. The news story indicated that people have less vacation time allowed in our current job market and they have less money for such a thing. Work and busyness, over scheduling, seem to be the order of the day. Where most other major first world countries take an average of 25 (Japan) to 42 (Italy) paid days off per year Americans use only 13 days. Also in these other countries (France, Argentina, Hungary, Britain, and Spain to name some) 77-89 percent of the workers take all their days allotted to them. In the Unites States its 57 percent. What’s up with this trend?

From a faith perspective I wonder where we are going. Even in religious life and Church life I wonder where we are going when the amount of ministry to be done seems overwhelming. I know sometimes when I take off I am afraid I will miss out on something. Admittedly I like to have a lot of irons in the fire. I also know that taking a break is good for the soul and actually gets me thinking about my routines and responsibilities which is a good thing. Where am I placing my energy? Is it healthy and balanced? If not-how can I be more productive when I need to be? Will practicing self-care help me to be a better minister?  Do I have to say yes all the time when a need presents itself? Am I a “bad” minister when I say “no”? Do I have to be around for everything?

I am beginning to think that living a balanced life is the goal we should strive for. Sure, its great to be “go-getters” and by all means we should strive to do our best and reach our full potential. But I think life is much more than setting goals. For me, life is more about relationships and human development. In Church language we are talking about justice- meaning right relationship. Jesus never negated hard work. Often he spoke of planting, sowing, tending, feeding, and just all round taking care of others. For him the work was always for a higher good. For Jesus, it was about how one did the work that mattered- how one treated another person or persons in the process.  

If we look at the example Jesus set, we know that he took time to play, be at social gatherings, and have fun. He also took time to pray, both with others and in solitude with his Father. Jesus spent a life of ministry, moving from place to place, saying what needed to be said, showing people what the love of God was all about. He motivated people to take on his mission of love. Perhaps this summer we can all take time to re-assess our lives. Do we take care of ourselves enough so that we may take better care of others? Do we truly love our neighbor as ourselves?              

Sr. Marla Gipson

Sr. Marla Gipson C.PP.S is a Sister of the Precious Blood. She currently lives in Minster, Ohio with a local community of Sisters where she ministers part-time as a Pastoral Associate at St. Augustine Church. She also ministers part-time as a Religious Education Consultant for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in the northern area regional Office of Evangelization and Catechesis and serves as one of the many Course Instructors for catechist certification. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from Ohio State University and an M.A. in Theological Studies from the University of Dayton.