Have you ever noticed the human tendency to go to extremes? If I’m not exercising at all, and decide that’s not a great choice, instead of exercising a few minutes a day….. I will have a multi-hour mega workout session. Or if I believe my parents were way too strict…. I raise my kids with no rules at all. Instead of finding the perfect – usually happy medium – our pendulum swings from one extreme to the other. Which means that while we may correct some of the problems at one end, we just exchange them for equally serious problems at the other end.
It’s important to help your kids avoid the pendulum swings and this constant exchange of serious negative consequences. God is stable and steady. He’s even referred to in scripture as a rock. God’s commands and principles keep us in that healthy, balanced area of life, attitudes and behaviors. The Christian life only seems extreme because the rest of the world is swinging between the extremes in life. In reality, the Christian life is lived in that stable, healthy, calm, balanced area of God’s wisdom informed obedience and decision making.
There’s a fun family devotional you can do to begin having conversations about balance and the Christian life. Take your kids outside. Create a balance beam out of a line made of chalk or a wooden board on the ground. Take turns walking, jumping and doing other things while staying balanced on the “beam” you have created. See who can stay balanced on one foot the longest as you take turns calling out things you all have to do while staying balanced on that one foot.
After you’ve had some fun, find a place to sit and talk. Ask your children to name some activities where it is important to have good balance – like riding a bike or walking a tightrope. Explain that there is a different kind of balance in life that is important to understand when we make choices. Read or tell them some of the stories of the life of Peter. You may want to start with John 13:1-10 and Peter’s rather extreme reaction to Jesus washing the feet of the Apostles. If your children know a lot of Bible stories, ask them to think of other times when Peter or other people in the Bible had an extreme over reaction to something. Discuss together what might have been a better, more balanced and more godly response to what happened.
The difficult part of this type of topic in a devotional is helping your children make the mental leap from the principle you are teaching to what it might look like in their own lives now and in the future. Remember, that these balanced, godly choices in life are not always about sinning versus not sinning (although they can be). Often, they are about making wise, godly choices that don’t start them down a road that might eventually tempt them to sin. For example, in our earlier example about exercising, under or over exercising is not necessarily a sin. Either extreme can become sinful, however, if it eventually tempts them to take illegal drugs to build muscle or lose weight or if they are not being good stewards of their health and the body God gave them.
Work with them to think of other examples in life when people tend to go to one extreme or the other when God’s wisdom would put them in the middle. Don’t forget with older children and teens to talk about extremes like Christians can’t have any fun (think Puritans) on one end and living a life centered on having fun on the other. Discuss how God’s wise center is not having fun doing sinful things in moderation, but finding lots of fun things to do that aren’t sinful. Point out that when they are confused about where that godly center is that they can find the commands and principles to help in scripture. Help them find some verses in Proverbs and other scriptures that give some great guidance in finding that perfect balance.
Afterwards, you may want to go outside and try some more balancing fun, like walking with a book balanced on your heads, playing Twister or having an old fashioned egg race or “floor is lava” game. Don’t forget, this is a topic you will need to re-visit multiple times as a topic of discussion and in the moment as you watch your children struggle with pendulum swing type decisions. Finding their balance in God’s wisdom can make it much easier for them to live the Christian life.