Today I welcome a guest blogger, my friend, Dr. Owen.
There seems to be a lot of emphasis on achieving balance in our lives. We strive to balance work and home, career and family, church and hobbies. The list is endless. If we can only get the balance right, we are promised we can indeed have it all. But is that really what balance is? A way of trying to cram as many activities into our lives as possible?
The dictionary defines balance as “an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.” Upright and steady. That’s what I want to be!
In Isaiah, we read that Upright is one of God’s titles. “The way of the just is uprightness; thou, most upright, dost weigh the path of the just” Isaiah 26:7. And, in Deuteronomy and Psalms upright is a description of Him. Deuteronomy 32:4 “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are judgment: A God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.” Psalm 25:8 “Good and upright is the Lord; therefore will he teach sinners in the way.” To be a balanced Christian is to be upright because God Himself is upright. Of course, this doesn’t mean physical stance, but rather the state of being moral, honest, and honourable in the eyes of the Lord.
How can we remain upright in the eyes of the Lord in a world that seeks to knock us down?
I love neurology and the wonderful way in which God has expertly crafted us, so indulge me as I explain how our bodies keep us physically balanced. There are some things we can learn from God’s beautiful design that can help us in our quest for spiritual balance, too.
Physical balance requires sensory input from three sources.
The first is our vision. It is much harder to balance in the dark. You know this as you navigate yourself to the bathroom in the middle of the night! Your depth perception and judgment are impaired, and it is harder to know where your feet are going. Vision also helps us subconsciously plan our next movement.
The second source is our vestibular labyrinth. This is a balance organ in the inner ear consisting of three semi-circular canals filled with fluid. These perpendicular canals detect rotational acceleration and provide directional information. Small hair cells called stereocilia protrude into the fluid within the canals. Rotational head movement causes the fluid in the canals to move, which leads to a displacement of these hairs, which in turn are connected to nerves that send signals to the brain. So, your brain knows whether you are upright or upside down, whether your head is turned to the right or left. Isn’t that marvellous engineering?
The third input is from proprioceptive receptors. These are stretch receptors that are located in our skeletal muscles and tendons that feedback information about where our bodies are positioned in space. If you close your eyes and hold out your arm, you know exactly where it is even though you can’t see it. The proprioceptive receptors are feeding back the exact position to your brain.
So, that is how we all maintain physical balance. We will stay upright if we lose input from one of these three sources, but we can’t remain upright if we lose two or more.
For example, Romberg’s Test is a test for proprioceptive (position and movement of the body) dysfunction. The physician has the patient stand with their feet together and eyes closed. If they have proprioceptive loss and you also remove their vision by asking them to close their eyes, then they’ll only have their inner ear working to maintain an input to their balance, and they’ll fall (the physician stands with an arm in front of and behind the patient ready to catch them!).
But, what about our spiritual lives? How does this information about balance help us stay upright in the eyes of the Lord? What we can apply from God’s beautiful engineering is that input from all three sources is necessary to keep us from falling.
Psalm 123:1 “Unto the lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens.”Psalm 141:8 “But mine eyes are unto thee, O God the Lord: in thee is my trust; leave not my soul destitute.”
Here in the Psalms, David talks of lifting his eyes towards the Lord. God calls us to focus on Him. Don’t be distracted by what others are doing or saying. Keep Him in your sight. Keep looking to Him. Seek Him out in forms of answered prayer and acknowledge Him in everything you do. If we take our eyes off God, then we will naturally fix them on something else. Don’t let the world be your focus.
Hebrews 12:2 “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.”
“When our eyes are on Christ, they are not on the world. And, when our eyes are on the world, they are not on Christ.”(Kelly Balarie)
Proverbs 4:20 “My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.”
What or to whom we listen has a big influence on our lives as Christians. First and foremost, we need to be listening to that still, small voice of God. Often, God has to beat me with a stick before I recognise His voice! If only I would just listen. In my most vulnerable moments of despair though, if I am truly still…I can hear Him. We need to choose carefully whose words we allow to influence us. Should we close our ears to the truth of God, we risk wobbling.
Of course, we now know that our ears not only allow us to hear but that the vestibular system in the ear keeps us level. This reminds me of the verse in 1 Peter5:8-9 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.”
As Christians, we are to stay alert and level-headed (of sober mind), just like our vestibular systems keep our physical heads level. We are to be on guard for attack. This is especially true at our most vulnerable times—be those times of despair or, conversely, times of success. The devil waits (prowls) until we are weakened before he pounces. If you recognise that your prayer life or church attendance is affected by poor sleep, family troubles or poor health then be on guard. Recognise your vulnerabilities and ask a friend to pray for you.
1Corinthians 16:13 “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.”
Loss of proprioception can occur for a number of different reasons. The most common reason is damage to the nerves in the legs (peripheral neuropathy) due to diabetes or vitamin deficiencies. The patient has trouble steadying themselves and therefore assumes a more broad-based gait (legs are further apart) in order to try and increase their stability. They can struggle with depth perception and adjustments in their steps and may have to physically look at where their feet are going to walk straight.
Clearly, it is much easier to steady yourself and stand firm if the foundation beneath your feet is solid. This is true in our spiritual lives, too.
1 Corinthians 3:11 “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
“He is the foundation personally considered, as God-man and Mediator, on which the church, and every believer is built; he is the foundation of the covenant of grace, and of eternal salvation; of the faith and hope, peace, joy, and comfort of all the saints; and of the building of God, that house not made with hands, that city which has foundations, eternal glory in the other world” (John Gill)
In our Christian lives, we cannot successfully stand on any other foundation than Christ. We cannot substitute Him with ideas or theories, theological education or morality. Our actions and decisions are based on the foundation of our faith. Christ has no substitute. He is our rock, our cornerstone. Basing our lives on anything less than His authority and foundation leads us to shaky spiritual ground, and we can’t stand firm on uneven ground.
So, all three inputs are necessary to keep us upright in the eyes of the Lord. Fixing our eyes on Him, listening to His voice and the truth of His word, and standing firm on the foundation of Christ.
Psalm 119:133 “Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.”
Lord, help me to remain level-headed with my feet on solid ground, and my eyes fixed on You. But please catch me should I fall!
Dr. R. Owen