Can You Juggle Your Way to Balance?

What activities unfold in your typical week?
       Parenting and family time
             Kids’ sports
                  Chores and errands
                        Church and volunteer work
                              Fun (we hope!)

How do you manage it all? Just today I caught myself starting to talk about “juggling it all.” I quickly changed my word choice, because the juggler is one of the characters I write about in my book, Finding Balance in the Circus of Life. And it’s not a good character to emulate.

I still need to remind myself that I do better when I live like a tightrope walker rather than as a juggler. I return to the lessons of Finding Balance in the Circus of Life often. It’s easy to let life happen to us, to let others toss one more ball into our orbit. I must remember to live intentionally, to make choices based on the way God has designed me and called me. Here’s an excerpt from the book on the juggler persona—and on why I really don’t want to be one:

The Juggler

Jugglers fascinate us. We’re mesmerized by the balls or clubs or swords or even chainsaws spinning through the air. We wait for the juggler to miss. And we wonder, could I ever do that? Who hasn’t attempted to juggle at least two balls to see if you can get the rhythm down?

And while physical juggling may have never worked out well for us, in our society we’ve all become pretty adept jugglers of tasks. The problem is we don’t know when to quit. We’re always adding another plate or ball to our already overfilled hands.

Do you have trouble saying, “No”? We believe we can multitask, but if the truth is told, I’m not a proficient juggler. It seems I’m always dropping something. An article in TIME magazine called “Staying Sharp” had this to say about multitasking: “A long history of psychological research has proved what one might expect: performance declines—and stress rises—with the number of tasks juggled.” Our juggling stresses us out, and what we’re doing isn’t done as well as it would be if we did one thing at a time.

Back in 2005 a British study outlined in The Guardian found, “The distractions of constant emails, text and phone messages are a greater threat to IQ and concentration than taking cannabis.” The average IQ loss was 10 points, more than double that of pot smokers! Imagine what the studies would reveal today when all of these technologies have become so pervasive.

It’s hard to imagine our lives without multitasking. We’ve done it for as long as we can remember. Most women believe they couldn’t get through life without juggling.

In the Bible we find a juggler by the name of Martha. She wasn’t juggling balls; she was juggling tasks, much like her female counterparts today.

Jesus has come for a visit, along with his disciples. Martha is attempting to juggle all the work necessary to feed this houseful. Luke 10:40 describes her state of mind: “But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” It wouldn’t be easy to feed an extra thirteen people in that era. No Stove Top Stuffing Mix existed to whip up and stretch the meat, no frozen veggies to drop in a pan of boiling water. Martha had a lot to do, so much so it distracted her.

What did it distract her from? Spending time with Jesus. That’s where her sister Mary was. She’s described in the same verse as sitting “at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.” Does Mary remember a baker’s dozen of men might be hungry? We don’t know, but Jesus commends her for choosing “what is better” (verse 41).

Like most of us when we multitask, Martha gets irritable when it doesn’t all work out. (Which it rarely does.) She appears before Jesus demanding he order Mary to multitask too. “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” (verse 40).

I can picture Jesus shaking his head sadly, as he says: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.” He then tells her the needed thing is the one Mary has chosen to do, to sit and listen to him.

We have no record of what happens next. Did Martha sit down and forget about dinner? If that were so, did the disciples and Jesus ever get fed at all? Or did Martha stalk back to the kitchen muttering under her breath, “Men, what do they know about all the work it takes to get a meal together. Sure, sit at your feet. Let’s see who’s squawking later when you’re hungry and no supper is ready.”

My reaction is often filled with sarcasm when someone suggests I’d do better to give up the juggling and tackle one task at a time. But the studies all seem to suggest they’re right.

Can we trust God to give us the time and energy to do what he’s called us to, one task at a time, and learn to disregard the rest?

Read the introduction and first chapter of Finding Balance in the Circus of Life at the bottom of the page here. Find links to buy the book here. I would love to come and speak to your group on this important topic as well. Find more info here.

And get yourself out of the juggling game and on to the tightrope.


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