Recently I was watching Sesame Street with my 2 year old to learn of an amazing acrobat from China named Sun Cho. Sun Cho, who is only around 6 years old, is a master of spinning plates. He can keep 14 plates spinning at one time. Want to see a plate spinner in action? Click here.
Spinning plates is one of my favorite metaphors these days. Between different roles as father and husband, running the fishing business and Bethany North, still in the midst of studying for a Masters of Divinity and studying for upcoming preaching topics…at the end of the day I can feel like I’m feverishly running around trying to keep plates from falling over. The plate spinner can never rest, because they are responsible for a bunch of equally important things, and Sun Cho’s job is to monitor the plate about to fall and put energy into keeping that plate moving. As a result, Sun Cho, or any plate spinner, is giving maximum effort to his weakest spinning plate. All things are equal, never really getting anywhere; the plate spinner has succeeded only when nothing has crashed. In many ways, I’ve been spinning plates this month.
I’ll confess to some bland days and a bit of melancholy over the last week. I’ve been letting the spinning plates control me and I’ve felt a constant push to keep rushing to the falling plate. It all manifested a few days back in a headache that lasted for about 3 days. I’m laboring under a heavy load; I’m rushing around for too many plates.
And then the snow starts to fall. Slowly at first on Saturday night and then more steadily Sunday morning. On and on, Monday into Tuesday and yesterday, the big blast. And in many ways, the storm literally shut down parts of Snohomish and King Counties. Kids were home, businesses closes, and people everywhere were out enjoying the snow. A few degrees turned a heavy rainstorm into a winter wonderland. Just a few degrees turned the everyday routine of rush rush and plate spinning and brought everything to a grinding halt. And people were okay with it because in most cases, the decision had been made for them to slow down. And then they enjoyed it. I enjoyed it.
Though I admire Sun Cho and his comrades, I’m really no good at being a plate spinner. With too many priorities all given equal footing in my mind, I’ll lose perspective and lose my cool. I’m working on a different model- one of priority for those closest to me- my God and my family. And then priority for my calling and passion in life- building our local church into a place of authentic relationships and vibrant service. And then the more mundane chores and to-dos of life and other job related tasks. What’s that? You hear crashing sounds? Well maybe that is okay for a while- letting some of the lesser important things in my life crash down as I focus on the few that I feel called to. As Pastor Richard preached last week, saying yes to your calling means saying no to other things. Or as Dr. Swenson wrote in his book Margin, getting control on our life comes when we learn to say no and establish control on our priorities. He writes, “We must respond with grace, with sensitivity, yet with firmness. ‘I’m sorry- but I can’t.’ To be able to say no without guilt is to be freed from one of the biggest monsters in our overburdened lives. If we decline, not out of self-serving laziness but for God honoring balance and health, then this level of control will not only protect our emotional margin but will actually increase it.”
Increased health, decreased plates. That is my goal. Shutting down the computer at night to pray and connect with my wife. Starting each day by the fireplace with a bible in my hand. Exercising and eating better. Time with my children, abandoned to the wishes of their whimsy. Time spent praying for our church and the people of our congregation. This is what increased health looks like to me. Less email, more study. More prayer, less TV and Facebook.
Can I confess something? Even as I write this I know I will often fail in this goal of better living. But the hope of intentional living, focusing on building a lifestyle centered around my relationships and my calling, is what must keep driving me towards making changes. Even as I fail, I show myself grace, I learn from the situation, and I seek to live differently into the future. Failure will be my guide. It’s not perfection I’m after, but a more holistic way of living. Wish me luck…I’m leaving the plates behind.