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A Fine Balance

By Phylliss Nissila

In front of the new hospital they’ve erected a sculpture featuring five life-sized, stilt-walking figures captured mid-stride. One resembles an historic figure grasping a bagged cat, another, an athlete, a third, a boy and his dog, a fourth, a young ballerina, and the fifth figure is a small fairy-like creature suspended mid-hover behind the dancer.

This bronzed tableau of whimsy and energy crafted by Oregon artist Ellen Tykeson entitled “Fine Balance” suggests to me the precarious nature of our lives perched, as we often are, between surety and doubt, faith and fear.

As a Christian, it reminds me of the difficult balance of life in the world but not of it as we strive for equilibrium on both finite and infinite plains. I think of my friend “Alice,” for example.

Most of her marriage of forty-plus years has been to an unbeliever. Of late, however, I hear “Jack” has been attending church with her and giving God some serious thought. But I remember how Alice managed for so long to maintain the joy of her salvation in the midst of his mean-spiritedness, how she somehow achieved the balance of hope in God’s promises in the midst of Jack’s ridicule of her faith in Christ.

I think of another wife of many years. Several years after she received Christ, her husband accepted Him as Savior. He also stopped drinking. The couple believed they’d been called to the mission field. They trained for short-term ministry in Russia and completed an initial assignment in that Eastern European country. Some time after they returned, my friend’s husband decided one day that he’d had enough of Christianity. He stopped involvement in church and sharing his faith with his wife. He returned to drinking. When asked why, he simply said it was her fault. She grieves to this day at the loss of their spiritual one-ness, with not knowing exactly what it was she did, and with his return to drinking. She grieves at the judgment of other Christians who blame her. But she maintains a strong faith in Christ and continues to follow Him.

I think of a mother of five, another believer, who, knowing her unborn child had Down Syndrome, chose to give him life anyway in a world where it has become increasingly easier to discard the “defective,” annul the “inconvenient,” and ignore the “unworthy”. She chose to birth, to love, and to care for him in a culture weighted increasingly in favor of the (few) beautiful, bright, and strong.

I also think of opportunities presented to all of us every day to offset discouragement with encouragement, lies with truth, selfishness with selflessness, choices that, rippling through others’ lives, can turn the mundane into the magnificent, not just balancing dark with light, but replacing it.

And I think of the ultimate “balancing act” where another figure suspended on wood—only this time in the shape of a cross, not bronzed but bloodied—overcame evil with good in a tableau crafted in the heart of God because of us, and for us.

I think of Jesus, Who balanced the weight of our sin with His sacrifice that we might not be found wanting. And as we struggle with our own “balancing acts,” whatever their nature, I am grateful for His promise: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Consider the power of the cross to save, heal, and deliver.

©2009 Phyllis M. Nissila. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Bio:
Phyllis is an award-winning former newspaper columnist. She has had numerous devotionals published in The Quiet Hour(Cook Communications), Pathways to God (Warner Press), and Standard Publishing’s Devotions. She has also written inspirational articles for Sunday Digest, Virtue, Vista, Live, Seek, Standard, Our Family and Herald of Holiness magazines. She teaches high school and community college literature and writing classes (among others) in Eugene, Oregon, and has taught in the field of special education. She holds a B.A. from George Fox University, and an M.A. in humanities from California State University. She has two grown daughters, and lives with her husband in Springfield, Oregon.