The act has been used as a clear metaphor for a person being too busy and trying to keep everything going. If you’ve ever been in that situation, you know how hard it is to accomplish anything effectively.
I’ve been working through several things in my life lately, trying to determine the best course of action. Honestly, on many occasions, I’ve felt like the plate spinner.
Everything demanded my attention and nothing was getting done well. I knew I had to make some changes, but waiting for clear instructions from the Lord left me exhausted.
I know everything comes in God’s timing, but the need for relief was becoming critical. I don’t like to make decisions just based on emotions, so the frustrations while waiting mounted.
I used to think I was good at multi-tasking, but began to question that, in this season. I have faith to believe that God will intervene and provide, so I was working it out, but was really struggling in the midst of it.
Because I believe in speaking life affirming truth, I just kept plugging away by continually reminding myself, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I often added, “God has given us everything that pertains to life and godliness.”
Thankfully, I only melted down a few times, but I really did feel like I had too many spinning plates. I asked the Lord what I should let go of and He answered me, but I balked.
I had heard a saying I believe is a quote by Oswald Chambers, “The good is the enemy of the best.” It’s my understanding that this has often been used to promote aiming for a high standard rather than allowing a “good enough” attitude, which could lead to mediocrity or even to sin.
I began doing some research about this and discovered an alternate quote, more famous than Chamber’s. It’s by Voltaire. “Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.” The best is the enemy of the good. “La Bégueule” (Contes, 1772)
As I pondered this second quote, I reflected on my journey to freedom from perfectionism, which I still sometimes fight. In that case, trying to be or do the best can often prevent any valuable action. So, that high ideal tends to limit the good that could be done if one weren’t so bent on having it perfect.
The two quotes are in conflict with each other, to some extent. In trying to determine how to resolve some of my spinning plate issues, I realized there is another interpretation which comes into play.
If you look at the word “good” and take it positively instead of negatively, then Chamber’s quote can be interpreted as those things we do in life that are good things, but that prevent us, by way of distraction, from doing the highest best for which we were created.
The more I pondered, the more it became evident I needed God’s word on the matter. I went straight to Jesus as my example.
In Mark 1, Jesus’ ministry in Capernaum was booming. Crowds from all over the Galilee region heard about the miracles and were literally thronging Him. Then, in verse 38, after His disciples had come to Him saying that everyone was looking for Him, Jesus made a strange statement.
“He said to them, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.” “
I imagine the disciples were quite confused by that. All the good Jesus had been doing would indicate His ministry was succeeding. Why would He suddenly decide to go somewhere else? I believe the answer is in the last part of the verse. “that’s what I came for.” I believe that simple phrase shows us that He had a much tighter vision of His ministry than the others did. Could it be that Jesus wanted to leave behind the good because He was pursuing the best? I think it does.
Let’s look at another example. Acts 6:2 says of the 12 Apostles when there were concerns about decisions on how the widows would be assisted,
“So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.”
This incident clearly shows that the Apostles had to have a higher view of their mission than settling disputes over which widows got to eat and which ones were turned away. Feeding true widows is certainly a very good, Scriptural and much needed activity. But the Apostles knew they were called to concentrate on the Word of God and prayer.
This example helped me begin to see that some of what I was doing, though very good and much needed, was really getting in the way of the best that I know the Lord has called me to.
On another occasion, Jesus had taken His closest disciples to Tyre for a much needed rest after an intense time of serving. He didn’t need the rest, but they did. During this time away from the thronging crowds, a Cananite woman came to where they were, begging Jesus to cast a demon out of her daughter.
Matthew 15:23-24 says, “But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.” But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Thankfully, this story has a happy ending, because Jesus marveled at her faith and had mercy on her, even though this was outside the boundaries of His mission. I love it that the Lord reveals to us how He adheres to the spirit of the law and not always the letter of it.
This gives me great hope. I see that even He had to deal with distractions and too many demands. This narrative helped me to have grace for myself in the midst of the spinning plates, but also caused me to see that even though Jesus made a rare exception, He still restated His ultimate mandate from the Father and kept that in focus.
There is another quote that brought me to such a place of peace in the midst of this difficult season. It’s from the book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Steven R. Covey.
“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside. The enemy of the “best” is often the “good.””
So, from all the confusion of the past couple of months, I emerged with a renewed hope, a solidified and reaffirmed commitment to my mission and a great peace about what I have to let go of. The greater “yes” resounds much louder now.
My prayer for you today, is that whenever you’re faced with having to make choices and decisions about the many good works that are at hand to accomplish as you serve Jesus, that you’ll remember this word from today and allow the Lord to grant you clarity of vision, courage to say “no” when you have to and free you of any guilt you may try to take on as you pursue the highest best God has called you to accomplish.
Until we meet on the other side, we all have limitations in our time and energies. None of us can perform at top pace in a chaotic environment for very long, so free yourself of the unnecessary yokes or burdens, false responsibility or things you shouldn’t be carrying. I pray the Lord will give you the wisdom to know the difference between what He has called you to do, what is a distraction, and what might just be a room full of spinning plates!
Luke 10:38-42 “Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me. ”But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.””
Philippians 4:6-7 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Always in Jesus,
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