A plate spinner is someone who performs a fantastical feat of spinning lots of plates on top of broom handles. The performer begins with just one plate and one broom handle. Once that plate is spinning well, they begin spinning another plate on another broom handle. Then once the two plates are spinning well, they add more plates, one at a time. As you start spinning a new plate, you must continue visiting the plates that were started earlier so that you can keep the plate spinning fast enough so that it doesn’t slow down to the point where it wobbles, falls and breaks on the floor.
Years ago, I was in a skit that titled “The Plate Spinner.” Even just trying to keep the illusion that I was keeping the spinning plates in the air was a frantic exercise. The more plates that were added, the more I had to visit to make it look like I was keeping them all spinning the way that they were supposed to.
In the skit, I labeled each plate as I started it spinning. The first plate was my faith. Tending this meant going back to it to keep my prayer life active. The next touch was to keep my personal Bible study regular and daily. The next touch was getting together with other believers to encourage and love on each other.
The second plate was my family. The constant touches to keep the plate spinning were representative of quality time with each member, then keeping my home orderly, then household chores, then our family activities.
Next, I added the friends plate – lunches, talks, laughs all took a “touch” from me. Then there was the work plate: Training, implementation, extra hours, relationship building, promotion/expansion goals. There was the volunteer activity plate, the extracurricular plate, the personal time plate…you get the picture.
After one particular skit rehearsal, the director let me know that I had missed tending to 2 or 3 plates. I found that interesting. In a skit designed to point out that we cannot effectively keep too many plates spinning without letting plates drop to the ground and break, I couldn’t even get to all of the hypothetical plates!
I have felt like a plate spinner for the last 2 weeks. Fortunately, the spinning plates are all great things, and many are temporary. However, I have noticed that sadly, one of the first plates to drop when I get busy is my faith plate. My faith isn’t lost, but when I don’t spend quality time with my Lord, the intimacy in our relationship suffers. I feel a little more distant – a little out of touch. The next plate to get dropped is my family. This one is easy because they know me. They will understand that I’m busy. But here too, the relationships suffer. I still love them all, but they do not get my best effort. In busyness, my personal care plate also gets dropped. I give up sleep first, which makes me more easily irritated and snappy. Now I am out of lock-step with my Lord, my family and myself. THAT is no good for anyone!
We all have varying degrees of how many plates we are able to keep effectively spinning, but once one plate gets wobbly, it is very difficult to keep from having several plates fall to the floor with a crash. Wobbling requires adjustment. Something has to give. It can be difficult to decide what plate has to be removed, but it is vital to the balance of our lives.
The Jesus plate is the most important. It centers us. It helps us prioritize the rest of the plates. Commandment number one, given by God to us: “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:2) Make no mistake, gods don’t all have formal names, but rather they are things that take our attention and TIME away from the Lord of all Creation. God’s Word says: “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) “Be still” in the Old Testament means: Stop striving. Surrender. In the New Testament when Jesus tells the storm to “be still” (Mark 4:39), it means “Hush! Be quiet!” The fullness of our knowing that God is the Lord over ALL requires our quiet stillness. We must surrender the crazy. This allows us to focus on and hear from Him. It lets Him be to us the giant, able, loving Lord that He is.
The pace of our lives doesn’t have to be the tyranny-of-the-urgent. Be still. And know that He is God!