The typical picture of entrepreneurs—20-hour work days, always-on email, working nights, weekends and holidays—screams for work-life balance. The “go for broke” ambition that turns B4T entrepreneurs into workaholics can either burn you out or send you to an early grave.
I’ll be honest with you: I hate the phrase “a balanced life.” Jesus was one of the most unbalanced people in history. Seriously, who fasts for 40 days? Who in their right mind consistently challenges their religious leaders? Who stays up all night praying? Who tells people to take up their cross and choose the narrow, hard path over the wide and easy one? Balanced people? No, I don’t think so.
Jesus calls us to be slaves of God. Is slavery balanced? In Luke 17 Jesus talks about the life of a slave.
Suppose one of you has a slave plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the slave when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’?
The very fact that the term work-life balance exists implies that things are inherently out of balance—that there’s something broken that needs to be fixed. And the implication, at least in Christian circles is that “work” is bad and “life” is good. The thinking is that the two are mutually exclusive, when in reality, they’re inseparably interwoven parts of the same whole.
As an entrepreneur who has started ten businesses and three non-profits I’ve grown frustrated at the way mission organizations treat B4Ters who are entrepreneurs. Surely we are the minority, a special breed, one who are set apart. There needs to be greater understanding to help the normal majority to gain a perspective on how our lives actually work. We should not be expected to conform to the rules of others, when God has created us to be rule breakers. Did Jesus break any rules? When I raise that question I am quickly told that Jesus was God. True, I am not God, but He has filled me with His presence and as a Christian we are “little Christ’s” who are made in His image.
Everyone of us is different; different gifting, different experiences, different calling. Who we are is not to be compartmentalized. Personally, I am a father, husband, business owner, team leader, basketball coach, mentor, and lover of Jesus, wherever I am and whatever I am doing. I may be coaching the basketball team in the evening, but I am still a business owner. When I am work, I am still a father. I am not any less “me” when I’m answering work emails nor am I any more “me” when I am enjoying supper with my family at home.
Wherever you are and whatever you do, you are you. Understand that work and life are not going to be separated by something as simple as a hyphen. Jesus’ day, and our days are not arranged on a scale that is seeking equilibrium.
On the one hand, God has given me the giftings and the tools to be a B4Ter. And as an entrepreneur I enjoy starting things. A la Eric Liddell, I feel His pleasure when He guides me in creating something out of nothing. I feel blessed when empowered to push boundaries. On the other hand, my job provides me with the sustenance that make’s family life possible. And yes, as wonderful and precious as my time with my wife and children is, I don’t transform into another person when I’m with them. When at home I think about work and while at work I think about my family.
Life is not something we make time for. There’s no ledger stating what is a balanced life. Those who are called to the life of B4T or those endowed with entrepreneurial gift need to be encouraged to embrace that calling, that gifting. Field leaders and mentors need to understand that B4Ters and entrepreneurs do not compartmentalize their lives. The passion and ambition that drive us to start our own business or work 60 hours a week for an international firm and take risks that a “normal” person wouldn’t think of, doesn’t magically switch off at 5 p.m. And as slaves of God, Luke 17 seems to imply that’s ok. He created us to live, eat, breathe and sleep the assignment He has given us. We’re not to turn His calling off and on as if we are the ones who are in control.
For us, there is no work-life balance; there’s simply life—life in which we love to do the work He’s given us, and love for the people He’s given us too. The two are inseparable parts. And guess what? That’s good.
The things that others typically compartmentalize into the “life” box (family, exercise, vacation, leisure activities) are essential to our work too. They serve as a means to recharge and reset our mental and physical health and productivity. So no more worrying about the work-life balance myth. Stop treating your personal life as something you have to make time for and your work life as something you have to apologize for. By His grace and for His glory we are B4Ters. And what God made us to be and what He’s given us to do transcends both.
PATRICK LAI and his family have worked in SE Asia for over 37 years. His experience in doing business with Jesus has brought him to understand the meaning of work and worship in the marketplace. He started 14 businesses in four countries, six of which are still operating. Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach businesspeople working where there are few or no Christians. Check out Patrick’s latest book, Workship, now available in paperback and e-book.