Speaking to a group of graduate students this week, I shared what I consider to be one of the most important statements in Scripture: “David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them” (Psalm 78:70-72, NIV). God develops individuals over a lifetime, and these verses form the foundation for making the most of that lifelong process: The key to effective personal formation is balance. According to what we read in Psalm 78, David was a great leader because he maintained balance between personhood (“integrity of heart”) and performance (“skillful hands”). To tip the scales too much in either direction is to court disaster.
Life is a perpetual balancing act. Granted, that is a rather broad generalization, but one based on the evidence of Scripture and the narrow perspective of personal observation and experience: A daughter balancing on the precipice of her senior year in high school. Another inching her way into adulthood with every choice made and bill paid. Still another daughter adjusting to an expanding household that now includes a two-year-old foster son. A new friend struggling to forge a life with family outside of a jail cell. A seriously aging parent perched precariously between sanity and senility. It’s as if each of us tiptoe along a tightrope, securely in place and upright as long as we give as much attention to who we are as we do to what we do. Introspection is the necessary companion to performance; likewise, wise meditation always leads to effective action. Don’t permit paralysis, but never neglect growth of your own character perched atop the high wire.
“Therefore, with humility, set aside all moral filth and the growth of wickedness, and welcome the word planted deep inside you—the very word that is able to save you. You must be doers of the word and not only hearers who mislead themselves. Those who hear but don’t do the word are like those who look at their faces in a mirror. They look at themselves, walk away, and immediately forget what they were like. But there are those who study the perfect law, the law of freedom, and continue to do it. They don’t listen and then forget, but they put it into practice in their lives. They will be blessed in whatever they do. If those who claim devotion to God don’t control what they say, they mislead themselves. Their devotion is worthless. True devotion, the kind that is pure and faultless before God the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their difficulties and to keep the world from contaminating us.” (James 1:21-27 CEB).