All work and no extras makes for a rather flattened life. Or, as the adage goes, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
The temptation towards such one dimensional living is a dangerous one. And Christians are not exempt from this. In fact, they may often be the most prone to it. This may be particularly true for many young adults as they embark on preparation for their vocation. Nevertheless, this subject is relevant for all of us.
The apostle Paul famously said, “One thing I do” (Philippians 3:13). Unfortunately, many take this verse out of context and forge a one dimensional life that misses Paul’s point completely.
Paul’s singlemindedness was focused on the pursuit of knowing and showing, and making known, the Lord Jesus Christ. Such a one dimensional pursuit is what in fact made Paul such an interesting multidimensional person. After all, this man was an intellectual giant, a seasoned and successful missionary, a dear friend of many, a hardworking tent manufacturer, an astute and unsurpassed theologian, eventually a world renowned author, a caring shepherd of many, a problem solver (as well as a pretty good problem causer!), and eventually a famed martyr. And again, this multidimensional life flowed from a one dimensional pursuit: Christ Jesus his Lord and Saviour.
The more that Paul pursued Christ the more he developed in other areas as a result. His soul prospered (3 John 2). This should not be surprising, for to know the Creator of the universe is to expand one’s worldview and to learn to appreciate the privilege of glorifying Him in all facets of life. However, if we lose sight of this, then it becomes all too easy to flatten out the landscape of our God-given opportunities for development in all spheres of life; such opportunities as, but not restricted to, our social relationships, our recreational enjoyments, our family life, our church body-life, as well as our intellectual, academic and vocational pursuits.
There are many ways that one can become one-dimensional. For instance, it is possible to become so enamoured in a romantic relationship that your world becomes socially flattened and everyone else becomes a blur as you gaze into the love of your life.
Others may become one-dimensional as they become obsessed with some recreational or athletic pursuit. The net effect can be that people tend to steer clear of you out of fear that they have to listen to you go on and on and on and on about your passion. Still others may become one-dimensional in a more “spiritual” sphere as they get a passion for some particular ministry. Often the unintended result is that they speak constantly about their passion and don’t even notice when the ones they are speaking to have that deer-in-the-headlights look! I know, because my family often suffers from this ophthalmological glaze at the dinner table when I can go on and on and on and—well, you get the point—about my latest passion for a particular ministry or a particular sermon.
In fact, my wife has learned the subtle art of shutting me down when I want to share with her—again—my latest theological nugget. When she concludes that I have said quite enough about the matter she tenderly says, “Why don’t you wait until Sunday when we can all hear it together?” Clever woman! Over the years, she has learned multidimensional ways to silence her often one-dimensional husband!
What I am simply saying is that even good things can narrow our lives in a way that is not very productive in the long run. I have never been too sold on the quest for “balance.” In fact, the most imbalanced people that I know are often those who boast about “balance.” Rather, I believe that we should pursue Christ, the most supremely, perfectly balanced person who ever walked this earth. As we pursue Him, our lives will take on the characteristics of His multidimensional life.
Let me address this issue as it relates to both young people and young adults. Many young people are so focused on doing well in high school (particularly in matric) and then in university that everything else takes a backseat. And disappointingly many parents add to this not-so-healthy mindset. The result is that all too often these young people then cut themselves off from spending time and building relationships with others. Because of an unhealthy one-dimensional mindset, they feel justified in cutting themselves off from friends, even from family and from meaningful body life in the church. And at the end of the day, though they may earn a coveted degree with the reward of a good job and salary, nevertheless they may find themselves unable to function well in a multidimensional world. In a word, they may find themselves alone and lonely and unfit for more productive service for the Master.
So, having identified the temptation, how do we overcome this potential malady?
Principally and practically, make it your goal each day to be filled with the Spirit. The ninefold “fruit bouquet” (Galatians 5:22-23) leads to a multidimensional character, which equips you for a multidimensional life.
For instance, if you express the love and the kindness of the Spirit then you will find it difficult to cut yourself off from others as they gather for fellowship—and for fun. If you exercise the spiritual fruit of self–control then you will find yourself at times pulling your nose out of the books in order to spend time ministering to the body or to simply spend some time with friends. If you are filled with the Spirit then you will benefit from faith, which will equip you to trust the Lord for your final results rather than cutting yourself off from everyone and everything in order to achieve.
I could go on and on and on, but I hope you can see the value of a one-dimensional pursuit of Christ, which in the end will enable you to become an interesting and productive multidimensional person. Such a fruitful life will bless your family, your church, your friends and the community for Christ. In fact, such a pursuit will enable you to say, “Bless the Lord, O my soul”—every dimension of it.