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Life Lessons from Spinning Plates

I was fascinated watching a program many years ago of the man who could “spin the plates.” He had about twenty or so wooden poles that he was going to “spin” the plates on. He started each plate spinning by concentrating only on that one plate. After he had one plate spinning he focused intently to start one after the other.

At first the plates looked like they were hardly moving. But as they slowed a little bit they began to wobble. After he had several plates spinning he had to run back to speed up the first ones that were slowing down. He would run back and with a few quick wiggles on the pole would soon have the plate spinning faster again.

The end was predictable. Soon the man was dashing back and forth in front of the many poles. Each one got a few quick wiggles but he was clearly losing ground. Eventually, despite his best efforts, the plates were slowing too much and began to fall off the poles and break on the stage.

Now he surely could have stood there on that stage and kept five plates spinning all night long. Maybe he could have done ten. But eventually he added too many and then the plates began to fall.

There’s an important lesson to be learned here. Over the years our lives get busier. The children age and need more time. Promotions mean more money but also more responsibility, stress and time. Recreational activities multiply, home duties grow and before long we are running from plate to plate trying to keep various parts of our lives from crashing to the ground.

When there is a fixed amount of anything, then it must be budgeted. That means taking stock of what you have available to spend (time, money, energy, emotion, etc.) and placing value on what tasks are most important. Parents who think that going to sports with their kids is more important than going to church with them are teaching those children that sports are important but church is not. That is a lesson they will not forget. Spouses often give less time to each other than is needed for a marriage to continue being healthy and a wobbly plate turns into a broken home.

“Add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control...,” (2 Pet 1:5-6). The ability to determine priorities, what is “most important,” is a very needed skill. You can’t do it all. No one can. You have to choose. Make sure you choose what is best. (See Luke 11:41-42!)

- Tim Orbison


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