“Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much revenue comes by the strength of the ox” (Pr. 14:4).
Our culture tells us that strong people are balanced people. They garner the strength of their determination, their will, and their resources in order to maintain order in every area of life. They exercise regularly, cook every meal, stick to a budget, and their children eat with napkins in their laps. If you’re strong—we are told—your life is clean, orderly, and balanced.
My life rarely feels clean, orderly, or balanced. If you don’t believe me, just hang around the Rowntree house from 4-6pm—right after the naps the little ones should’ve had, and right before the dinner they’re starving for (and probably won’t eat much of—yes, it’s a strange phenomenon). If you do come, I advise you bring ear protection, or else you may never recover from the chorus of blood-curdling screams. In fact, you might even join that chorus before it’s all over.
Our lives are messy, but I’m learning to be comfortable with that. According to Proverbs 14:4, strength does not mean “balance”; it means “mess”. Strong oxen make messy barns, and strong people have messy lives. Mess isn’t always a problem that needs to be resolved, but rather, a sign that something is right.
I could’ve avoided my messy life by not having kids at all. My time, money, and energy would be far more balanced. My marriage would face less emotional strain. I’d be slimmer, stronger, faster, and fitter. I’d have four fewer budget-munchers and far more cash on hand.
For that matter, I could have just not married anyone. That would free up loads of time for me. On top of that, if I stopped giving to the church and the poor… if I stopped giving anything to anyone… just think of how much “balance” I’d have!
Love is just so… disorienting. The more we love, the less balance we have. The only way I’ve found that I can live a truly “balanced” life—physically, emotionally, and financially—is to live a truly selfish life.
So…. Isn’t balance important sometimes?
Sometimes there’s wisdom in keeping a budget (Pr. 27:23-27), but sometimes there’s wisdom in blowing it for the sake of the poor (Lk. 19:8-9). Sometimes there’s wisdom in keeping a schedule (Acts 3:1), but sometimes there’s wisdom in changing it for the sake of the harvest (Acts 3:2-4:4). Sometimes there’s wisdom in staying in shape (1 Tim. 4:8a), but sometimes there’s wisdom in long-term fasts that unlock answers to prayer and make us gaunt (Ps. 109:24).
Of course there is a place for “balance” but we’ve imported an America ideal into our spiritual lives to such a degree that we feel unnecessary guilt about falling short.
Instead of taking our cues from a culture that can’t meet it’s own standards, the church must learn to balance “balance” with the extravagant, adventurous, and unpredictable call of God on our lives.
Submission to such a call will absolutely drain us of all strength--and that's not as bad as it sounds.
For when we are weak, we are strong in Him.
 I’m not suggesting that those who choose not to marry/have kids are selfish. In fact, it could be the least selfish act in the world, if you’re doing it for the glory of God (1 Cor. 7). But if you’re choosing to not marry/have kids solely in order to indulge yourself in a you-centered life… then yes, you are selfish :)