For Every Mile of Road There are Two Miles of Ditch

The saying “For every mile of road there are two miles of ditch” is a great picture of how easy it is to go from one extreme of error to the other. Balance, or staying in the middle of the road is difficult when many voices and forces are working to get you off course. When my teenage son began to learn to drive many years ago, he went from ditch to ditch. It may me doubt his ability to ever get his license, but eventually he learned to achieve balance. 

Achieving balance results when the extremes are identified and avoided. These extremes can come into your life spiritually, physically, politically, and in many other ways. The United States is currently divided into two ditches. The country is divided between right and left, vaccinated or unvaccinated, black or white, and Republican or Democrat. A wise person is able to see truth regardless of which camp it resides in.

As a leader, it is important to see that balance is the wise place in the middle of the extremes. One example is diet. The extremes are gluttony or starving yourself. The balance is eating correctly on purpose. Another example is money. Some value poverty as a virtue, while others see money as the end-all to success in life. The balance is to have enough for your family and an abundance in order to help others.

A self-evaluation, or constructive advice from a trusted friend can let you know where you are out of balance. Sometimes it is difficult to recognize our own flaws. A spouse or a friend who can speak the truth in love to you is life changing if you are humble enough to be corrected.

Living out of balance in one area of your life will show up in other areas of your life. It is unsustainable to drive a vehicle very far when you are in a ditch. In the same way, if your life is out of balance in any area, you won’t get very far. If your character is out of balance, your gifting or charisma may get you to places that are unsustainable. Good character and integrity can sustain your life in the long run, but character flaws eventually show up. Sometimes they show up publicly if not dealt with privately.

When I first started in leadership, I was anxious to get going faster. It seemed like it was taking too long. After whining and praying to the Lord about my slow progress, it is as if he said to me, “Do you want me to deal with your character flaws in private or in public?” There were some areas that needed to be addressed before I was in the pressure of leadership. I now look back and appreciate the time that was spent fixing some things privately. Not that I have totally arrived in the area of character development, but some things needed to be addressed before I was able to move forward as an effective leader.

Joseph, in the Old Testament was a classic example of being trained for leadership before being launched. He spent about thirteen years going from the pit, to Potiphar’s house, to prison, and finally to the palace. Even though he was wrongly treated along the way, his time spent learning to be a leader in Potiphar’s house and even in prison became invaluable to him. After interpreting Pharoah’s dream, in one day he was launched into a position of prominence. (see Genesis 37-50).

Not only was he being trained to lead, but because of his mistreatment, he was also developing character and patience in persecution. We can learn from even bad things that happen to us. Joseph’s character was so developed that at the end of his story in the Bible, he was willing to forgive his brothers who had sold him into slavery. He saw interpreting Pharoah’s dream. Through his struggles, God was able to reveal to him a higher purpose for his life.

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines balance as, the ability to move or to remain in a position without losing control or falling”. What a perfect explanation for a life that finishes well. If someone is balanced, they don’t fall off on either side or go into either ditch. Someone who is in a ditch loses control of their life and falls. We all start without balance, and then as we learn and fail and learn, we hopefully come to a place of greater wisdom.

I have struggled as many do with workaholism. Insecurity often presses a leader to put in more hours at work than they should. The balance between work, rest, and days off is achievable. It takes faith and persistence to rest when it feels like you should have your hands to the plow. Laziness is one ditch and workaholism is the other. The balance is a life of hard work and intentional down time. 

A balanced life is the result of correct priorities. Years ago, I thought of the idea of a fountain with several levels of troughs to catch the water. The water flows to the top through the center and fills the first trough until it spills over to the next trough and so on. To me, each trough represented a relationship in my life. Only when the trough above it was filled, could it spill over to the next level. Those relationships were placed in priority. The first one is God, then spouse, then children, then church, and finally the world. Your priorities may be different than mine, but the principle is the same. A balanced life is the result of having your relationships in order. The things that pull us out of balance are distractions to those relationships.

Schedule a time to do a self-evaluation, and also have someone else evaluate whether they see any areas that are out of balance in your life. Balance sustains your life for the long haul.

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