Recently, I have found myself on the receiving end of what feels like many different tasks and situations tossed my way all at once—some for which I have no training or knowledge, others exceeding what one person can manage. The temptation in the moment—to catch it, whatever it is, and add it to the increasing juggle—has been overwhelming. Yet, despite the urge to take it all on individually, having felt the recent pains of overload and aware of the potential for burnout, I find myself responding with a break in the cycle: letting the balls drop. A month ago, I was reminded by an esteemed colleague that whenever we (in this context, clergy) become consumed with doing trivial (smaller) tasks, it ultimately takes away from our call to preach, teach, and care for those in need. (This is not to say I am above certain tasks, but when we juggle many little things it can, and eventually does, hinder our ability to serve in the ways that are most critical for a community of faith.) Therefore, with this in mind and seeking to be aware of my own personal limitations, instead of anxiously juggling a number of things that are beyond me, I find myself reevaluating what is most important. Sometimes we have to let some of the balls tossed our way drop to the ground, for the sake of not overburdening and burning ourselves out. I’ll be honest: At first, this has been very difficult—it goes against everything in my nature. I, like many people, have been conditioned over time to believe that if I don’t juggle what all needs accomplishing—than it won’t happen.
Not to break into a Disney’s Frozen song (“Let it go! Let it go!”), but a tough lesson I’m slowly learning in my serving is that I am not called to be Atlas, the Titan—bearing the full weight of the heavens on my shoulders (nor Jesus the Christ—bearing the sins of the world on his broken body). Things will slip and fall—it is an inevitable part of human life—and that’s ok. There is hope and promise in that I, myself, am not called to bear every little thing—that a congregation, the church universal, and the world do not rest solely on my ability to juggle everything that gets tossed my way. God’s outstretched arms can—and do—reach out, catch, and manage countless things we cannot juggle on our own. We are stewards of God’s creation—not jugglers. My call is to live in the tension of the juggle and drop, to do what I feel I can but ultimately demonstrate forgiveness in (spite of) it, and give others permission to let certain things fall from their own personal juggle when they feel overburdened by it. Particular things may not get done, the absence of previous tasks will cause the present situation to look different, people will likely be upset (with me) about the change—but at the end of the day the sun will still set and rise for another day, worship will still take place, and the church (God-willing) will still continue in its mission of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ and ministry of caring for all people. Letting the balls drop is not a concession to weakness or defeat, it is a humble acknowledgement that I cannot do all things alone and that which I can do I seek to do well. When the burden becomes too great, we can let the balls drop and trust that God is there in our midst to catch what needs holding and what is unnecessary fall away altogether. Do not feel as if every little task tossed up falls on you to catch. When something does fly loose, do not guilt others into taking on the responsibility to bear it alone. Juggle what you feel you can. When it becomes too much, do not be afraid to ask for help. If the balls drop, life will go on. If you can relieve another person of a burdensome juggle, do so as a means of loving and caring for them as God in Christ loves and cares for you. Grace and peace to you in the juggle(s) of life.