Have you ever read a book purely for entertainment and then later realized that the book stuck with you?
What was intended to be a diversion, a distraction, ended up teaching you something profound. Life changing.
At the time, the lesson buried itself under the busyness of life; was lost in the book’s storyline. Forgotten.
But it wasn’t dormant.
It was active.
Like a seed planted in optimal conditions, this lesson was going through all kinds of transformations inside its shell, stirring up magic and mystery, until it germinated. Then stealthily it took root and started to grow. Still hidden. Its presence undetected. By the time I realized it was there it had already past the seedling stage and was setting its first bud.
That doesn’t happen for me often. Come to think of it; I don’t think it ever has.
Granted, most of the books I read are non-fiction, so the lessons tend to immediately whack me upside the head, turn me inside out, influence my decisions, and propel me to redirect my thinking, behaviors, and attitudes.
However, fiction is my “escape.” I don’t watch a lot of TV or movies. I’ve never binged on Netflix unless I was sick, but even then I much prefer to curl up with a book, turn the page, and be transported someplace else for a while. Mystery and detective novels are my guilty pleasure—so, not many lessons to be learned there.
This past July, while on vacation with Thad’s family, I felt seduced by the bookshelf in the house we rented. I know. Shocker! Me tempted by books! Who would’ve thunk it?
As I perused the titles, I kept telling myself, “I don’t have time to read any fiction right now.”
- I was preparing the writer’s conference the following weekend.
- My book proposal was still a hot mess.
- I didn’t have the luxury to read anything for pure pleasure.
- I needed to complete this project!
But Thad encouraged me, “You are on vacation. Read a book. You need to rest and relax. Enjoy. Do something fun, for you.”
Like an addict, the books lured me in. I felt guilty. I should be working. I should be writing. But there I sat reading dust-jacket after dust-jacket. Then I grabbed the book. I turned it over, read the back, and felt that delicious tingle. If you’re a reader you know what I’m talking about—when a book snags your attention, tantalizes you, and then reels you in.
I tucked Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas by James Patterson into my lap as I looked at the rest of the books on the shelf.
I know Patterson from his Alex Cross series so seeing this fascinated me. No. It was more than that. I felt like I couldn’t put it down. There’s no way to describe it, but every time I tried to re-shelf it, I couldn’t let go of the spine. It always ended up back in my lap.
Intrigued by the magnetism of the book, I put my proposal aside and cracked open the cover.
I was immediately captivated by the two love stories, yes two, with the same man. One current and one exposed in the pages of The Diary. Oh, and the diary! Beautifully written. Honest. Vulnerable. Full of life and incredible love. It made me feel all the feels and then some. (Great book, if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.)
At the beginning of the diary (chapter 3), Suzanne (a busy, overextended doctor in New York City) had a severe heart attack, despite her youth. A combination of allowing her schedule to control and drive her life, poor health and eating choices, sporadic sleep, and the lack of a social life outside of work slowly whittled away her health until her heart said I give up.
Inside I tentatively raised my hand identifying with her. No, I haven’t had a heart attack, but I knew I needed to make better choices before I destroyed my health too. And her pattern of life before was/is eerily similar to mine.
As part of her recovery, Suzanne moved to Martha’s Vineyard to become the town doc, but before she left New York a friend reminded her of this parable:
Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. And you’re keeping all of them in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls—family, health, friends, and integrity—are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered. And once you truly understand the lesson of the five balls, you will have the beginnings of balance in your life.
It took a heart attack for her to finally understand The Lesson of the Five Balls.
I had to read and reread this passage several times. I should have guessed at this point this lesson was burying itself into my heart, but I didn’t.
This summer has been hectic. But if to be honest, that has been a way of life for me for a long time now. Years in fact. I’ve known the adverse effects it’s had on me, evidenced by my expanding waistline, yucky gut, elevated cholesterol (mostly due to genetics), and increasing frequency of stress migraines. However, I’ve done little about it.
- I have to do this.
- I need to run there.
- I must do that.
- I have to ________.
- This person needs ________.
- This kid has to be _______.
You know what I’m saying, don’t you?
So Sunday as I laid in bed with the fourth migraine of the month I started to do some meaningful self-evaluation.
In the past, I’ve whined and complained about the delays due to “a headache.” But as my vision got progressively fuzzier despite my trying to push through, I knew something needed to change. NOW! I knew God was trying to get my attention and had been for a while. And I knew it was time for a chat. More like He talks and I shut-it and listen. (I am not the best at this.)
To keep it simple, He reminded me of The Lesson of the Five Balls and the feelings I had when I read about Suzanne’s damaged health. She ignored the warning signs and paid a hefty price. If I wasn’t careful, I could be her.
So the rest of Sunday and all day Monday I ignored social media, my blog, and my book. I let the “work/ministry” ball drop.
Though this terrified me, this was a good thing! I would never have believed it before, but I do now.
The truth is, it had been getting harder and harder to keep control of this ball. With so many influences telling me it needed to do this and that, be this and that, go here and there it was hard to make it work in harmony with the other four balls, the glass ones. Managing this ball was taking the majority of my time and focus. And I was exhausted!
So while that ball laid on the ground, well within my reach, I started to make a list of everything I am doing—all the parts that make up that ball. And I was shocked! There is way more going into that ball than I realized. Then I started to look at how much time each item was taking, and the amount of stress each was causing. I asked God if I could remove anything from the list—to lighten my load maybe. The answer was no. But He said He would help me manage it better.
But first I had to give Him the ball and the list—surrender them and all my efforts.
To say this is hard is an understatement! I love control, to have my fingerprints all over everything. However, when I handed it over God started to show me where I could use my time and energy better, more effectively. He opened my eyes to things I could recruit others to help me do as well as making sure I make time to exercise, rest, and recharge. To celebrate and honor the Sabbath. What an interesting concept, huh?
On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation. Genesis 2:2-3
I love that when God rested from his work of creation He incorporated rest into His schedule as an example for us. He doesn’t get tired. He never grows weary. But we do. He knows that. So he blessed us with this gift of time to recover, recharge. Yet, we are so guilty of not accepting it. We throw it back at Him and grumble about fizzling out. Yup, I am preaching to myself here.
Do you need to do the same thing?
- Make your list.
- Put all your activities, responsibilities, and demands on it.
- Then hand it over.
- Let God help you balance it.
- Let God help you see where you could use your time more effectively and efficiently.
- Identify areas where you can recruit help.
- And schedule a time to rest and recharge.
‘I am the Lord your God,’ I told them. ‘Follow my decrees, pay attention to my regulations, and keep my Sabbath days holy, for they are a sign to remind you that I am the Lord your God. Ezekiel 20:19-20
The decree to take time to rest is not a punishment! It’s a gift! It’s a time for us to focus on our relationship with God. To focus on Him. The Sabbath is for us! Plus, when we are rested, we do our best work.
Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. Exodus 20:8-10
Rest is so important that God made it one of the Ten Commandments! It’s #4 to be exact.
‘Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. ‘Mark 2:27
Not much more here to be said than this.
I don’t have it all figured out, but I am making a plan. I am implementing the plan. However, I won’t etch it in stone yet. It’s fluid until I figure what works best for me. Because though it may look good on paper doesn’t mean that it will play out well in life. So I have to adjust and tweak as I go. I’ll keep you posted as you can be sure there will be a few changes here as well.