The world is full of options. Are you busy rushing after the next shiny object? That’s the problem for the trapeze artist, one of the characters I talk about in my book, Finding Balance in the Circus of Life:
The Trapeze Artist
“He’d fly through the air with the greatest of ease, that daring young man on the flying trapeze.” I remember that song from my childhood, so I was surprised to learn it was written in the mid-1800s about a specific trapeze artist named Jules Léotard. (And yes, the leotard was named after him.) Léotard was the first performer known for “flying” from one trapeze to another and for performing a somersault in the air.
Trapeze artists swing from one side of the circus to the other in a great arc. This is one circus performance we think we understand a bit, thanks to those years on the grade school swings. We know the thrill of soaring up, that moment of suspension at the apex before we come hurtling back down. And suddenly we’re on our way back up again, only on the other side.
My husband Les hates it when I read any books or articles that fall in the how-to or self-help categories. He knows I am sure to adopt whatever great advice is out there. I launch myself into it with gusto—for a few moments or days at least. And then I bore of it and come swinging down, just before sailing up to the next great self-improvement project. Like Jules Léotard, sometimes I even launch myself from one crazy idea to another, flying through the air without even a moment of normal life.
When we live our daily lives as a trapeze artist, we are busy swinging from one extreme to another with no lasting focus. We might have that moment of suspension where we are “all in” to whatever idea has caught our fancy, but it doesn’t last long. Soon we’ve left it behind, headed back to earth. But we don’t stay there long either. We are immediately swung away toward a different extreme, some new interest.
These extremes waste three of our most limited personal resources: time, energy and money.
I saw a magnet once that said, “I went on a special 21-day diet. All I lost was three weeks.” When I pick up some new improvement scheme, I may buy new foods or household products. I may throw out those clothes that don’t project the new me. When I bore of the scheme, the new juicer ends up in a bottom cupboard, the foods rot in the veggie drawer and I wonder if I can buy my comfortable pants back from Goodwill.
We have so many options to choose from in life, it can be hard to focus on one or two things, to stick with them and to do them well. Part of the problem is the articles and books make it seem so easy. “Five Simple Steps for Making Your Own Potpourri” says the headline, and we believe it’s that simple. At least until we get started.
Once when I was trying to save money I read in a book that I could make my own liquid soap. All I needed to do was buy glycerin. I searched and found it, spent money on it, and took the time to make my own soap. I proudly poured it into all my liquid soap dispensers. It soon hardened up inside each one, clogging the nozzles and dispensing no soap, liquid or otherwise. I had to replace all four of my soap dispensers and the soap. Not such a money-saving venture after all.
The diet advice or home organizing advice might work if we just stuck with it, but there’s always another article offering a better or faster or less painful way to do it. So we abandon plan A and move on to plan B.
We want good results but not at any personal cost.
We don’t want it to take our time or energy or effort to achieve. We want instant results, microwaveable remedies. All gain, no pain.
Life doesn’t work like that, no matter what the supermarket check-out line headlines say.
New methods, new ideas, new plans can bring us new hope. And certainly God does new things in his church and in the lives of his people. “See, I am doing a newthing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” God says in Isaiah 43:19. When he is bringing something new into our lives, he wants us to recognize it.
But that doesn’t mean it will be easy. His way often requires hard work. He doesn’t want us to pursue the new simply because it seems like a faster way to get results, abandoning what he has called us to in pursuit of the shortcut.
The trapeze life has no lasting focus. We swing back and forth, enjoying higher arcs or a farther leap to a new trapeze altogether. But nothing permanent is accomplished in our lives. And like those days on the grade school swings, we often very suddenly reach the point where we are dizzy and sick, needing to get back down to earth as quickly as possible.
Have you thought through your focus as we launch into fall? Don’t just shoot for the next big thing. Put in the work to focus on your fixed point. And if you want to know more about finding your fixed point, check out the rest of my book, Finding Balance in the Circus of Life!