The dark green box is falling apart, yet it holds one of my most treasured possessions. It was given to me from my mother on my birthday many, many years ago.
Earlier that year I had decided to teach myself to juggle. I had been told throughout my childhood that I was clumsy and I desperately wanted to prove that it wasn’t true. . .to myself as much as to anyone else.
So I purchased a set of beginner’s juggling balls. Actually, they weren’t balls, they were squares. That’s what made them so good for beginners, when they fell to the floor, they didn’t roll away.
When beginners learn to juggle, they start with only one ball, learning to throw it in an arc from one hand to another, without watching the ball land in the catching hand. Next two balls are thrown, learning to throw them in identical, parallel arcs.
Once this is mastered without dropping them, it is time to add the third ball. The book which came with the balls said that it was simple to add the third ball after mastering the two-ball toss. I didn’t believe it.
Hours upon hours I stood at the end of my bed and tossed the two balls. (Standing at the end of the bed eliminates the necessity of bending over to pick up the balls that weren’t caught.) Eventually I felt ready to add the third ball. I tossed the first ball, then the second and before the first ball came back to my hand, tossed the third to the sky. Suddenly, it all clicked in my head and the balls made a continual circle in front of me, briefly handing in my hand before being flung back up to the sky. I was amazed, elated and genuinely impressed with myself.
I began to practice juggling everything in sight. Lemons, oranges, limes. . .anything round became a juggling ball in my eyes. I can’t tell you how many rolls of tape I juggled at work! The more I juggled, the more I found to be true another key mentioned in the book. . . a successful juggler does not look at the balls or his hands. Every time I looked at the balls, they fell to the floor. Every time I looked at my hands, I missed the balls. I learned to look past the balls, to look through the balls to something else. I learned to sense the arc of the balls and to let my hand go where it knew to go without watching it. Feeling the soft "thud" of the ball landing in my palm was a reward each time it happened.
I also developed the habit of humming a little song with my juggling, humming the same song every time. Humming the same song every single time I juggled, and in those days I juggled a lot. I'm sure it annoyed my family a great deal.
Finally the day I had really waited for had arrived. I was at my mother’s house and on her counter was a bowl of oranges. They weren’t too big, they weren’t too heavy, they were just right. As we were in the kitchen talking, I casually picked them up and began to toss them into the air.
“Don’t you drop my oranges!” she scolded.
“I’m not going to drop them!”
My answer sounded much more confident than I actually felt. But I didn’t drop them. I kept the oranges revolving around for several minutes and then brought them all in for a soft landing as if I had planned the whole flight. Well, of course, I had planned the whole flight. I just wasn't sure it would come off as planned.
My mother didn’t seem impressed at all and I was very disappointed. But on my next birthday I opened up a dark green box to find a set of professional juggling balls. She might not have seemed impressed, but clearly she was. She was impressed enough to remember that her daughter could juggle and impressed enough to buy her a nice set of juggling balls. Well, maybe she just wanted me to keep my hands off her oranges.
As I think about juggling now, I think about how much juggling I do in my life that has nothing to do with juggling balls. Life sometimes seems so busy, it is as if there is too much to do and not enough time to squeeze it all in. I feel like I am juggling so many things, and there are always two things in the air for every one I actually have a handle on. I barely have time to get my grasp on one thing before I fling it to the sky and feel the next one land in my palm.
As with juggling, there are important keys to life, especially a busy life.
We must not to look at our hands. We must not spend so much time focusing on ourselves that we forget our lives are all about others. Our Saviour spent His whole earthly life pouring Himself out for others and His life is the pattern for our own. If my eye is on my own hands, I will surely fall to catch an important ball and see it tumble to the floor.
My eye must not be on the balls either. The key is to not look at the things, but to look beyond them. There is One who can keep all my “balls” in their orbits in the air if I only keep my gaze centered on Him. If I take my eyes off Him and look at the individual balls, then I will never be able to keep them in that perfect arc. I am only to barely touch these things, to fling them upward to Him – they are His things, and I must trust Him to work and in through me to accomplish His ultimate purpose both in them and in me. I am only there for the balls to bounce off of on their way toward Him.
“Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith. . "
"For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure."