by Andrew Cromwell
These days is seems the new most popular phrase in the business and government sector is that things need to be “sustainable.” Well, that and “resilient” but we’ll save resilience for another article. The dictionary definition of sustainable is simply, “able to be maintained at a certain rate or level.”
It’s a simple concept and applies in almost every area of life. If you are a runner, you know that you have to run at a pace that is sustainable if you are going to finish the race. If you set a pace that is too fast for the length of run, then you will exhaust your energy before you get to the finish line. If you are a lumberjack (or a lumber company), you know that if you cut down more trees than you have land and time to regrow trees, then you will be out of business. And if you are a farmer, you know that you can’t plant more land than you have water to irrigate—it’s not sustainable.
We talk about sustainable business practices. Sustainable water usage. Sustainable environmental policies. Sustainable government spending.
And it’s a good thing! If you pump more water out of the ground than the rain can replenish, then the water table drops and your crops (or you) die. If you overfish the ocean, then you or your children won’t enjoy the incredible variety of seafood we enjoy today. And if you chop down all the forests and jungles, then we’ll burn up sooner than later.
All of these examples are based on the assumption that the world is made up of interconnected systems that are directly affected by how much is pumped, fished, or harvested. For the system to remain healthy, it has to stay balanced. But that doesn’t mean that the system shouldn’t be stressed or challenged. It is very possible to harm the system by not taking enough out of the system, just as much as it is by taking too much out of the system.
For example, the US Forestry service has recognized that some of their policies for forest management have been based on a faulty model that assumes that the way to keep the forest system balanced is to minimize the amount of forest fires. The result has been that in many places the forest has actually become less healthy as a result. Fires that would normally have thinned out the forest and allowed for healthy new growth, have been prevented so forests have become overcrowded and increasingly susceptible to disease and insect attack. As the rangers have recognized this mistake, they are now either starting controlled burns or allowing fires to naturally burn out.
So what’s the point you may ask?
Well here it is. You are also caught in this interconnected web of systems. You as an individual are an organism that must live in balance. You must live life at a pace and in a way that is sustainable. If you don’t, you will become overworked, underproductive, and unhealthy.
This means that you can’t take out more than you put in. This is not only true of things like food—if you don’t eat enough calories to offset the amount of energy expended (which might be a good idea for a while), you will eventually become sick and die of starvation. It is also true of emotional and spiritual food. If you don’t spend enough time caring for your soul and always give out to your spouse, your children, your family and your friends, then you will eventually become sick.
On the flipside, if you don’t ever stress yourself and give of yourself to others, work hard to achieve goals, and generally stretch yourself, then you’ll get sick too. You’ll end up fat and lazy. You’ll run out of energy and you’ll stop enjoying life.
The key is a healthy balance.
So what are you doing to care for your spirit, your soul, and your body? Are you feeding yourself in these three areas? Your spirit needs to connect with Father God. Your soul needs healthy doses of truth, silence and forgiveness. And your body needs some exercise and healthy food. If you don’t put enough in then you’re going to be sick.
Maybe that’s part of your problem!