Full disclosure: I can’t juggle. At least not in the literal sense of the word. But I do struggle with anxiety, fear, and wanting to control things I can’t control. All of which I imagine might feel a lot like being perched over an angry sea while trying to juggle a dozen fragile balls. It’s an image I can’t seem to shake. One that turned into a prayer—and then into a story. A story I hope might give you the permission it gave me to drop a ball or two.
Angry ocean waves beat against the narrow dock. The gaps of it’s weathered boards allowing a view of the raging water below. I want to leave. My legs crave dry, solid ground, but I can’t move. I can’t take the chance.
The balls I am juggling require my full attention. If I do anything to disrupt the cadence, they will fall.
Juggling hadn’t been a problem when there were only three. In fact, it had felt good to keep my hands moving while I enjoyed a beautiful sunrise. But as the day went on, I began collecting more balls. Some I picked up on my own. Some were tossed to me. And some seemed to appear out of nowhere.
After awhile I was keeping a dozen balls in the air. It was exhilarating.
It soon became exhausting.
Not long after picking up those first balls, the wind turned and the waves started to swell. The blue ocean morphed to an eery gray. And the crowd of jovial onlookers left.
But I was unwilling to leave.
Unwilling to drop the balls that had become incredibly important to me—small spheres I now feel responsible for.
The moment I drop one, it will be forever lost.
So I focus harder on keeping each ball in the air.
Off in the distance, I can heard seagulls calling out to each other. I get a glimpse of dolphins playing in the swells. It sounds as if the waves have stilled, but I won’t dare look. I have a job to do.
Must keep the balls in the air.
This is has become my mantra.
This has become my prison.
Someone walks by and starts to toss me another ball.
“NO!” I scream. “No more! I can’t handle any more!”
The shock of my own voice causes my hands to waver. I recover quickly. I can’t let the balls drop.
I won’t let them fall. I can’t lose them. I must keep them safe.
I’ve got them.
I’ve got you.
The words—spoken more to my heart than my ears—bring a gasp from my lips. Then, like a camera pulling back to a wide shot, the words cause my perspective to change. Revealing something I hadn’t noticed before…
Resting, open and strong, under my frantically working arms, are the steady hands of God.
“You can let go,” the voice of pure peace whispers. “I will catch them.”
My heart knows his words are true, yet my hands won’t stop moving.
The stakes feel too high.
“I…I don’t know if I can,” I admit.
I feel his compassionate smile.
“You’ve been juggling many things for a long time,” he says, as my arms suddenly feel heavy. ” It’s going to take awhile for you to learn to let them go. And that’s ok. So, how about for now we just start with one?”
I take inventory of the constantly moving balls. It is a lot. How did I get so many? All of a sudden they feel like too much. And his hands…
I risk a quick glance.
His hands are so much bigger than mine. And they look so much stronger and more capable.
“But what if you drop it?” I ask, as my arms begin to quiver.
“I won’t drop it,” he assures me.
And I want to believe him.
“Just one?” I clarify.
“Just one,” he assures, with a smile.
I bite my lip.
I glance at the water.
Fear rises in my throat.
Somewhere in the distance I hear a child’s laughter.
I fill my lungs with air.
I hold my breath.
And I let one ball drop….
It lands safely in his hands.
Joy radiates through my body for a moment before fear chases it away.
What if he wants me to drop more? I can’t. Not yet. I want to. I don’t know if I can.
“I said just one, remember?” he says, as if reading my thoughts. “I know this is hard for you.
Let’s just leave this one in my hand for now and see how it goes, ok?”
“Ok,” I whisper, embarrassed by my lack of trust, grateful for his understanding.
“I’m proud of you,” he says.
My eyes flood. He’s proud of me? I could only drop one ball into his fully capable hands! Only one!
“You were willing. You tried. You trusted me,” he says beaming like a proud father. “I am proud of you. And, you know what else?”
I nod slightly, careful not to disrupt the cadence of my arms.
“I love you. And I always will. No matter what…even if you never trust me enough to let all of those fall into my hands. I will still love you.”
I’m overwhelmed by his kindness.
Undone by his compassion.
But, still, a jolt of panic erupts from my lips.
“What are you going to do with it? What if you forget it’s there? What if you drop it?”
“I don’t drop things,” he restates matter-of-factly.
I chew my lip. I nod, hopeful, yet unconvinced.
“You love this ball a lot don’t you?” he asks, looking at the precious sphere in his hand.
“I love it more,” he says tenderly.
I believe him.
“I want you to remember that I created this ball. I know it better than you.” He turns his eyes of love towards me. My heart soars. “Will you trust me to hold it, even if just for awhile?”
I nod again.
“I want to,” I answer honestly, “Will you help me?”
“Always,” he answers.
My heart catches his breath.
A wave of peace washes over my soul.
And without realizing what I’m doing, I allow another ball to slip from my hand.