When Balanced Is Not A Checkbox

Being married in seminary can be difficult. Making sure you don’t kill your marriage on the alter of academics is a balancing act we will all walk. Add children and a job and your complexity level just went through the roof.

To make sure that we’re keeping everything in balance, many of us go about a day and weeks with schedules and check boxes. Wake up – Check. Read Bible – Check. Go to class – Check. Read and study – Check. Spend time with family – Check. Watch a little TV – Check. Ahhh, a balanced day! Everything was checked! All must be well with the world.

Well, maybe not.

On couple weeks ago, on Sunday, I was in my office working on a project for Going to Seminary and my wife came in and I knew she was a little frazzled. She said she was taking the kids to the playground and that they were driving her crazy.

The way she said it, I knew that her current state was not just the fault of the kids, but also yours truly. However, I looked (figuratively) at my check boxes and everything seemed fine. I had worked all week – check. Was home for every dinner – check. Helped put the kids to bed – check. Spent time with the family on Saturday – check. Gone to church as a family – check. It was all checked.

But here I was, listening to my wife and knowing that though MY checkboxes were all full, something was wrong.

The main problem is that balance isn’t just about checkboxes (though the type-a in me wishes it were). When real people, real emotions, (and real toddlers) are involved, simply saying “I did my part” isn’t the right answer.

At the playground we talked a little bit and both clarified the unspoken expectations that we both had. For me, I was reminded that my wife and kids aren’t a checkbox. They are people that I love and care about. That means that some times, though I feel I “earned it,” I need to lay aside some of the things I want in order to love my wife and kids.

For you, it might honestly mean not studying for a test and taking a bad grade. It might mean not reading chapters 15-20 and not having anything to contribute to the class discussion the next day an looking bad in front of your peers when you don’t know answers to the professors questions. It might mean writing a 15 page paper instead of the required 20 and, gasp, getting a C- in a class instead of an A.

Seminary is important… don’t just be a lazy slacker… but your ministry to your family trumps school any day. In fact, you can get an A in seminary and still fail the apostle Paul’s exam 1 Tim 3:4-5.

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Ryan Burns
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  • Timely exhortation, brother! I have learned this the hard way (and it seems as though I have to keep learning it!). However, this semester, I am proud to say I passed (barely, let me stress that, barely) my first semester of Greek. It is not like I don’t know it. I was simply not able to put in the time on Greek in order to pass.

    Good stuff. May we all heed your advice and put the pen down and do what we have to do!

  • Very true. I am reminded of a Greek professor of mine who told us in a solemn tone that we had better not pass his class while failing Christ.

  • Well put, although I would expand the principle to include singles in seminary. Even though I had no “family”, per se, when I was in school, the demands of work (since I had to support myself) and ministry (since in the eyes of the church, singles have all the free time in the world to devote to ministry activity) all but killed my spiritual life. But it was in the wise words of my professors who reminded me that sometimes the most spiritual thing I could do is get a C or even take a nap.

    For a lengthy but excellent explanation, listen to Richard Pratt speak at a Spiritual Life Conference.


  • Well said. Right there with you. Actually working on a less than perfect project right now, after staying up with my son who couldn’t sleep. Wouldn’t trade the joy of holding him for anything.

Written by Ryan Burns