Stop Trying to Balance it All and Start Finding a Rhythm

Finding the perfect level on a see-saw.
Stacking blocks to make a tower even TALLER.
Placing one foot, heel to toe, in front of the other on a narrow ledge.
Carving down a slope on a pair of skis.

All provide opportunities to practice, and sometimes enjoy, balance. But when you imagine spending your entire day doing it, it sounds exhausting. Live your life trying to balance on a plank (or two), on a tower of blocks, on a narrow ledge, or on only one leg, and you won’t have much fun. Your focus will wane. Your legs will shake. Your head with ache.

Balance can be fun, even good for us so long as it is tempoarary. But when it’s our default setting, we set ourselves up to fail.

The challenge is that we think we NEED balance, not to mention we have plenty of reminders of our imbalance. Balance is exalted, but rarely modeled well.

I think it’s because our view of balance is too often unhealthy and unhelpful. When we consider the balanced life, we’re prone to buy into the myth there must be a way to tend to everything, all the time, at a high level.

This isn’t to say all forms of balance are bad. We need the chemicals in our brains to be balanced. We need our diet to be balanced. We need the organs in our inner ears to balance and keep us upright. But our capacities can rarely match the opportunities and responsibilities before us. When we can’t balance it all, a healthier approach is to ditch the myth of the “balanced” life, and replace it with a RHYTHMIC life.

Rhythms are natural, innate with our our bodies and our environment. The seasons of the year provide unique and important rhythms for plant and animal life to flourish. The seasons of our lives provide unique and important rhythms for the self to flourish.

Rhythms allow for work and rest, socializing and solitude, helping a neighbor and caring for oneself.

We are often responsible for more than we can handle at any one time. We don’t have to balance it all at once. We’re better off developing healthy rhythms to attend to our responsibilities in their due time.

I’ve heard it said, “Don’t try to boil the ocean.” It’s a helpful image for chasing the “balanced” life. It too easily leads to stress, anxiety and fear.

The “balanced life” surveys the landscape of your life and asks: How can I tend to all of this right now?

The “rhythmic life” discerns the landscape of your life and asks: What is mine to do right now…and what is mine to do later? And even, what’s not mine to do at all?

Balance isn’t all that bad. But when try to balance too much, we’re on a path to burnout. When we live a rhythmic life, the notion of balance returns to its proper and authentic place.

The 3 Questions That Get to the Essence of Life

When it comes to your life, are you willing to ask the most important questions? 

Rabbi Akiba ben Joseph is known in the Jewish Talmud as “Chief of the Sages” for his incisive wisdom. One afternoon he left his cottage to go into the village for some supplies. After finishing his errands, he accidentally took the wrong path home. It was night, and as he wandered, he heard a voice:

“Who are you? Why are you here?”

Akiba jumped in fright, realizing he had stumbled upon a Roman soldier-guard. He responded to the sentry’s inquiry with his own question:

“How much do they pay you to stand guard and ask those two questions?”

The sentry replied, “Five drachmas a week, sir.”

Akiba paused and then said, “Young man, I will double your pay if you come with me, stand guard at my cottage, and ask me those two questions each morning.”

You’ve heard it said that there’s no such thing as a bad question. That may be true. But I also know another truth: Some questions are more valuable than others. Akiba saw the value of a good question; two in fact. When I think about the best questions of life, I agree with Akiba…and add another.

1. Who are you?
2. Why are you here?
3. Where are you going?

Identity. Purpose. Direction. These are the questions that get to the essence of life. All other questions are but tributaries that feed these three mighty rivers. They begin in our head, and make the windy and complex journey through our heart and into our soul.

Back track the most frustrating parts of your days, and you’ll eventually find your way to these questions. To lean into your twenties is to lean into these questions. But when you do, lean with love. Love for yourself. Love for God. Love for others. For the best questions are the most vulnerable places, and often we can be our own worst critics.

To keep from tripping over yourself, I encourage you to reach out to someone who you trust dearly; a friend who knows your hopes and fears and stewards them well. If you’re struggling to make sense of the truths and the lies that swirl among these questions, ask another:

1. Who do you believe I am?
2. What do you think I’m here for?
3. Where do you see my life going?

That is a conversation worth at least 10 drachmas.

Of Tightropes & Canvases. Or, God & Us.

By now some of you have been subjected to the “forced family fun” that is a company or organization retreat. For those that haven’t, allow me to explain. You and your coworkers head to a retreat center in the woods and engage in a litany of team-building exercises, many of which require awkward looking helmets and ill-fitting climbing harnesses.

Teams work together to accomplish a goal, getting from point A to point B. Many involve the dreaded tightrope, a steel cable of shame. A journey across a tightrope only a few feet above ground can be harrowing and exhausting. So much energy is exerted staying on the rope.

A former student astutely recognized this as an apt metaphor for her previous understanding of God’s call. If God’s call is a tightrope, there’s only one place to go and one way in which to get there, with virtually no margin for error.

No place to rest.
Can’t fail.

Thankfully, she’d grown into a healthier understanding of vocation, which she described as a canvas and a box of paints. It’s an image full of freedom, risk, and some healthy room for error. She could stop, look at the canvas and think. But a canvas also has some boundaries, which she found helpful. The paints are for the canvas, and the canvas is only so big. She possesses a unique palette of colors, and can mix them and allow them to interact with one another.

The ways in which we imagine our response to the call of God reveal so much. Walking a tightrope and painting a canvas are vastly different ways of understanding. They carry with them fundamental assumptions about who God is.

Granted, our understandings and descriptions of God are always insufficient. We can only know so much, and the rest we must chalk up to a glorious mystery. The best we can do is ensure that there is congruence in our views of vocation and God. After all, a calling requires a caller.

And if a calling requires a caller, it begs the question:

If you believe in a God who calls you into being, a God who calls you to lean into faithful dimensions of the good life, does your understanding of vocation flow from a healthy understanding of who God truly is?
My sincere hope is that you experience a God who is good, compassionate, loving, helpful, generous and patient.

My sincere hope is also that you experience a vocation that is good, compassionate, loving, helpful, generous and patient.

This doesn’t make it easy, or perfect, or fun all the time.
But with congruence comes a deeper sense of peace. Perhaps, a peace that passes understanding.

This week let’s all agree to step off the tightropes, pick up a brush, and paint.



Ok friends, Jessica Fankhauser and I need your help. In preparation of the release of our book “Ready Or Not: Leaning into Life in Our Twenties” (in 3 weeks!), we’re curating a ‘soundtrack’ for the book of songs nominated by YOU.


We’ll put the final list together on Spotify for all to enjoy. Give us your songs in the comments. Please and thank you!

Listen to Drew on The Enneagram Journey Podcast with Suzanne Stabile

IMG_7503Drew Moser was a guest on The Enneagram Journey Podcast with Suzanne Stabile. Suzanne is a master enneagram teacher and author of The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery and The Path Between Us: An Enneagram Journey to Healthy Relationships.

Drew spoke with Suzanne about how being an enneagram type 3 impacts his relationships. The conversation covered work relationships, marriage, parenting, and friendships. Take a listen!

Why Does it Have to be so Difficult? The Challenge of Vocation

F A T H O M || T R I B E

I ONCE ran a marathon. It was a bucket list goal, unlike any of my prior athletic pursuits. In my former sports life, running was always a necessary means to an end. You have to run the bases to score a run. You have to hustle down the court to set up an offensive play. You have to sprint across the goal line to score a touchdown.

I soon learned: to run a marathon you had to view running as the end itself. Or you go insane.

This is because a 26.2 mile race is too much for an average human being to consider all at once. When I first started training, the thought of running that distance was overwhelming. The prospect of crossing the finish line felt too abstract. Too far. Too hard.

Ponder the difference between “I have to run over 26 miles today” and “I get to run as much as I can today.” The running distance was the same, but the perspective shift was profound. I’d be lying if I said it was easy.

The challenge of vocation isn’t all that different. We view God’s call upon our lives at BIG; therefore our response must match the grandeur. Mustering up a big response to a big call often leaves us paralyzed in our insufficiency.

And, we are prone to want our response to God’s call to be perfect, as if we are to hit a bullseye far out of range, with only one arrow left, in the midst of a storm and the clock winding down.

Truth be told, most of the time we don’t receive the big booming call, and our responses to what we hear are often imperfect. The shrub next to our sidewalk doesn’t burst into flames. The donkey doesn’t turn its head our way and tell us what we need to hear. The angel doesn’t descend from heaven on a cloud. Our calls are often found in the realm of hunches, clues and glimmers. These whispers of inspiration require small, faithful steps along a relatively uncertain path.

To respond to a call, I’ve finally learned, you have to view the call as an end itself.

When we do…
we step into vocation with freedom, not backing away with fear…
we actively participate in vocation instead of drumming our fingers waiting for the miraculous…
we see vocation as a process of faithful, incremental steps in the here and now, not some far off
we know that vocation is not a curt exchange between God and us, but a long obedience in the same               direction with the triune God.

The challenge of vocation, in a word, is attention. Distracted by the enormity of it all, it’s tough to pay attention to God, others and self in the present moments. When we pay attention, the whispers of inspiration compel us to widen our eyes, perk our ears, fix our jaw, and keep trudging. Even when things seem overwhelming.

I’ve only run that one marathon. I checked it off the list and haven’t mustered the motivation to endure another. But the lessons remain.

  • Resist the urge to ask: “Will I ever get there?”
  • Instead, lean into the question: “What’s the next right thing for me to do?”

Playing the Waiting Game: Cultivating Patience

pexels-photo-298018Life can often give us a sense of feeling stuck. We know what we want, but can’t seem to make any progress. We can often find ourselves playing “the waiting game” (Whomever coined such a phrase clearly doesn’t like games. Or, perhaps, never played one.).

We wait for the career we’ve dreamed of . . .
We wait for the end of a long work day. . .
We wait for a spouse share life with . . .
We wait for the pizza to cook in the oven . . .
We wait for a text from a friend . . .
We wait to emerge out of the hole that is our student debt . . .
We wait for this long overdue letter (sorry ’bout that) . . .

We wait. We wait. We wait.

At times, it feels as if the twentysomething life is a series of waiting games. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Consider what so often bursts forth in the waiting:

  • In waiting, there is still much work that can now be done. There is good to tend to in the here and now. Thinking is action. Small, incremental steps are simply right in front of us.
  • In waiting, there can be greater depth. Time and space to ponder, inquire, and reflect brings much needed wisdom to steward future opportunity.
  • In waiting, there can be increased growth. Instant gratification does not mature us. Growth comes through trial and difficulty. The friction that is waiting can spark something within us.
  • In waiting, there is a call toward gratitude for what is as opposed to what could be. We have an opportunity to take stock of the blessings of the present.

Your twenties are, in a sense, a decade of waiting games. But rather than drumming our fingers on the table impatiently, try to embody the anticipatory hope of the Gospel for this day, this week, this season, this decade. Live your lives within the tension of being:

Fully present, fully prepared.
When we do, we practice what the Christian spiritual teachers have called The Holy Delay; a spiritual practice of letting God work in us in the waiting.

Choosing is Not Discerning

pexels-photo-258510Any time we turn the page on a new year, our thoughts turn to anticipation, curiosity, and an evaluation of our place in life.

The coming new year often compels us to consider some spacious questions:

  • Where do I want to go?
  • What do I want to do?
  • Who do I want to be?

These are goood, tough questions that have within them significant implications for vocation. Such questions are complex, and they demand some complex work. Too often I see twentysomethings view these questions through the lens of choice, evaluating the options before them, and making the best decision.

But here’s the problem: to choose is to rely on preference. And our preferences can get in the way of the discernment. And, if we take these questions seriously. . . we need discernment.

Discernment is the quality to grasp and comprehend the obscure. Discernment is marked by insight and understanding.

Choosing is better for the simple quandaries of our day:

  • Do I want a gagel or cereal for breakfast?
  • Which shirt to wear to work?
  • Which TV show to watch?

Beyond the thousands of trivial choices in our days, we must make room for the truly important decisions that come with pondering the importance questions of our lives. This is the realm of discernment.  The deep questions of life require more than mere preference. They too require choices, but of a very different sort. These are the choices that arise from the cultivation of wisdom; and wisdom’s fertile ground is discernment. Thomas Merton once wrote,

“We must make the choices that enable us to fulfill the deepest capacities of our real selves.”

Which reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Annie Dillard:

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

Discernment requires space amid the multitude of triviality to think, reflect, and ponder.

Discernment implores us to deeper questions that cultivate the wisdom we need for a year well lived, a decade well lived, and a life well lived:

  • How do my current contexts help prepare me for what’s next?
  • How do my own wants and wishes align (or not) with the needs that I see around me?
  • What do I need to let go of to truly understand who God has called me (and created me) to be?

These will, perhaps not right away, present options which will require a choice. I don’t have the answers for such discerning work, but I believe you do. Dig deeper than simple choice and discern. It takes time. It takes energy. But to embark on a discerning journey is a year well spent.

Got One of ‘Those’ Relatives? How to navigate family

pexels-photo-868330For some, family gatherings are nostalgic affairs. For others, they stir up feelings of dread. Family is messy, complicated, and tricky. And holidays are often lessons in patience when THAT relative starts going on and on about their conspiracy theories, political views, or theology you find suspect.

Your twenties are a time in which you begin to realize the ways in which family has shaped you: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Family gatherings at the holidays press this realization right in front of our faces. Depending on your family, a Thanksgiving meal can be marked by laughter…raised voices…or tears…or passive aggression…or silent resentment (or all of the above). Some of the best family work you can do is to spend some time deeply exploring two things:

  • If I’m honest, what are my expectations of my family?
  • If I’m honest, what are my family’s expectations of me?

The roots of family disfunction often start here. What complicates this is the in-betweenness that often marks our twenties in our own family. It’s a decade of transitioning from receiving from to investing in.

Truth be told, healthy family should have healthy, reciprocating rhythms of both giving and receiving. These rhythms in our twenties can feel confusing. There’s no simple formula for this that applies to all twentysomethings. However, it’s often an excellent idea for you to consider:

  • How can I contribute to my family in healthy and meaningful ways?

Bonus: If you’re in a particularly trying family environment, I strongly suggest you try the spiritual practice of Welcoming Prayer. It’s a way of processing through conflicting or frustrating moments in real time. Welcoming Prayer involves 3 steps:

  1. Focus and sync in: Allow yourself to feel the tension or frustration. Acknowledge it.
  2. Welcome it: Acknowledge the frustration by naming it and literally saying to yourself, “I welcome you (anger)…” NOTE: This doesn’t mean you condone hurtful or abusive behavior. Rather, you are acknowledging the feelings you have.
  3. Let it go: Simply, let it go. Not too quickly…but don’t let it linger. Tell yourself. “I let go of (anger)”

Welcoming prayer disarms the power of offenses…and provides you with a means of proactively dealing with it (as opposed to simply reacting).

The Pain That Comes with Healing

pexels-photo-167699I received a flu shot last week, which means I stood in a line and paid money to get poked with a needle. On the surface, this seems ridiculous. But it was a voluntary choice to experience momentary pain in hopes of a healthy future.

As I waited in line, a nearby TV was running the 24 hour news cycle; a series of hot takes of controversies over #takeaknee, white supremacist rallies, the political gridlock in Congress, and the like. The tension and strife pervades to the point of feeling overwhelming: how can we be about the work of healing amid such division and brokenness?

I don’t have all the answers, but I find the wisdom of Thomas Merton powerful and helpful. In his classic work, New Seeds of Contemplation, he refers to the followers of Christ as “A Body of Broken Bones.” Much like Christ’s crucifixion, which broke his body, we suffer our own division and separation from one another.

The New Testament refers to us as the Body of Christ (I Cor 12), and if you look around, you truly see a body of broken bones. Merton writes:

“As long as we are on earth, the love that unites us will bring us suffering by our very contact with one another, because this love is the resetting of a Body of broken bones.” (p. 72).
The glass-half-empty-take? Life is painful no matter what.

The glass half full Good-News-of-the-Gospel-take? We are free to choose love or hate. Both paths involve pain, but only one path is the pain that leads toward healing.

To love is to see the healing role that pain can play: like the resetting of a broken bone, like the poke of a needle providing a flu shot, like the cleaning of a scrape or cut, there’s a vision of what could be . . . what must be. This provides the grit to endure the pain for a higher purpose.

This is the essence of a faithful life . . . not merely a system of beliefs, but the recognition and participation that Christ living in us unites us to one another. Like the resetting of bones, the love of Christ painfully, but healing-ly brings us back together. Sometimes it’s excruciating. Sometimes it’s awkward. Sometimes it’s embarrassing. Sometimes it’s frightening.

But it’s a better pain than the pain of avoidance. We must engage and lean into the healing work.

How can you lean into the healing work this week?
A body of broken bones is who we are. But it’s not who we are called to be.