I am neither a designer nor an artist, but I have a good understanding of the value a generous amount of white space can provide to a room or a work of art. The same can be said for the valuable contribution intentional white space can give to our everyday life. Achieving proper balance in our lives requires devoted attention to creating space around what we deem to be important. To effectively develop white space, we must learn to be intentional in the disciplines of upholding our personal life priorities, of identifying and protecting our “non-negotiables,” and of empowering others to speak into our lives.
Proper life balance, for me, has always been dependent upon the diligent effort to keep my personal life priorities in proper order. A simple assessment of what is most important, at every moment, is a key to maximizing our effectiveness, finding motivation and energy, and ultimately fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives. My simple matrix of life priorities goes like this: faith, family, health, and ministry. It really is not all that complex, but I find that when I hold to my commitment to approach every aspect of life in that order I’m best equipped to lead with effectiveness and integrity. In addition, it is with priorities in order that I am best equipped to deal with whatever challenges life may bring and be responsive rather than reactive, ultimately finding fulfillment in what God has called me to do. Not surprisingly, when I find myself feeling ill-equipped for the challenge, or somehow depleted, invariably one of these priorities has gotten out of proper sequence. The systematic and intentional attention to our life priorities is a key to developing “white space” that will provide proper rest to keep our energy, focus, and attitude in balance.
With a committed set of life priorities as a foundation, it is important to address them with a few imperatives that I refer to as “non-negotiables.” These are commitments we make to ourselves that are intended to put is in the best position to uphold our stated values. The question we must ask ourselves is “What habits can I form that will allow me to fulfill my life priorities?” For some, it may be a new Bible study plan. For others, it might take the form of a renewed commitment to a healthy eating plan, or perhaps it will be an exercise routine with accountability. The important thing is for these habits to begin to align our lives in such a way that we are nourishing ourselves in body, mind, and spirit. When we establish “non-negotiables” such as regular exercise, coupled with a commitment to taking in God’s teaching through the written or spoken Word, the effect is to bring strength to all of these areas at once. Carving out space in our lives for a few areas of daily discipline that we are not willing to compromise is a valuable model for establishing the “white space” that is so necessary for clarity of purpose and call.
Finally, a committed strategy toward making time for Sabbath rest and the disciplined effort of creating “white space” in our schedule to accomplish that goal is dependent upon the empowerment of people we allow to speak into our lives and guide our thinking. As leaders, it is important to identify key individuals to whom we can grant access into one of the most important and sacred areas of who we are — our time. First and foremost, effectively balancing our life priorities, “non-negotiables,” and the daily demands placed upon us requries a clear understanding and process of communication with our loved ones as well as those who we have empowered to provide us guidance when we need a break or are becoming over-committed. The trust we place in others to speak into our lives is the key to unlocking a strategy in which we are functioning in our area of maximum effectiveness, maintaining proper order of life priorities, and fulfillment of those “non-negotiable” areas of our being, while bringing the best of who we are to the purpose to which God has called us.