Quitting the Circus – How to Know When to Embrace the Spotlight or Go Home

I had a rare night home alone last night and it felt luxurious to think about all day. First thoughts went to all the work I could get done in the house and in my new career (because I’m embracing it for what it is, finally). I had seasonal projects hiding behind closed doors, dishes piled, a bathroom floor that looked like a hair salon at the end of the day; and, emails I need to craft and content I need to create. Maximizing time feels like my part-time job these days, making the most of nap times and sleep times so I am as awake to my husband and daughter as I can be when they are awake to me. But as I imagined the 6 hours of uninterrupted alone time in my home as “more work” hours, my chest tightened and my intestines seemed to halt. My body was suggesting a different direction and I’m learning to listen closer to these signals.

The choice I made instead was to set my timer for 45 minutes and “ninja clean” the spaces that needed it most in my home so as to maximize our rest and enjoyment this week. It always surprises me how setting my timer works like magic. You know how it feels when you are overwhelmed by all the things – every task seems to weigh hours in effort. But with a little intention (like identifying a project and setting a timer), brings order and before the time ran out several main spaces felt lighter and even my body was showered. Do with that as you will!

Then I transitioned to the next and only agenda for the night: Redbox movies. All night. My selection? I Can Only Imagine and The Greatest Showman. And let me tell you, that was the best use of a night to myself!

Piled up on the couch with plushy blankets and my favorite tea, (for the first time since I was sick before Christmas!), I savored my home for the joy it can provide each of us. I got completely wrapped up in the redemption story told through MercyMe’s leader singer Bart Millard’s life, in I Can Only Imagine. I wrestled with him as he wrestled with a God who could forgive someone who had brought such hurt into his own life. Then I cried with him when he embraced his dad and the redeeming work of the Gospel. Is there anything in this life more precious than seeing the broken healed, the lost restored, and torn relationships mended? I think not.

Image credit to I Can Only Imagine.

Then I immediately put in The Greatest Showman, because, again…there was nothing else on my agenda other than enjoying goodness in movie form last night with NO SHAME. None. Just joy. And man, did the next movie ever usher in the joy!

Image credit to Amazon.

Out of the entire film the most poignant moment and line (to me) was when PT Barnum (played by Hugh Jackman) passes the leadership hat (literally) behind the bleachers to the up and coming new Ring Leader, Phillip Carlyle (played by Zac Efron). Carlyle asks Barnum what he will be doing instead and Barnum joyfully replies:

“Watching my girls grow up.”

Ironically, just seconds after Barnum quits the circus, Carlyle just as joyfully runs out to the center ring and picks up with the chorus, “This is the Greatest Show!” Both are speaking truth, both are embracing their true selves, their season, their “greatest shows” even though they look differently. Needless to say, I was struck at the power of that scene.

This week especially I have been asking God for wisdom. This quote was shared at our church on Sunday and it has been stuck in my heart like a piece of tough steak in my teeth:

“Between what matters and what seems to matter, how should the world we know judge wisely.” – T.S. Eliot, poet

How do we know the difference between what matters from what seems to matter? How do we recognize when we need to quit the circus and when it’s time to jump full-hearted into a spotlight? I’ve done both. For you maybe it’s a new job, or service opportunity, or relationship, or a move to a new home or city or way of thinking. As a woman with a child about to start preschool with a husband who leads a constantly-growing business, I’m asking how best to steward the hours in my days, and how to pay attention to the main things as my new season opens up. Maybe you are asking the same thing?

By all means, carry your questions with your own conviction, but I’ll share two disciplines that are helping me find peace with mine. As I type I’m praying that the “steak stuck in your teeth” in this area begins to loosen up as you sense God’s direction for your own life.

First: Prayer!

I’ve asked God to reveal to me in His Word, through His Spirit, and through His people what wisdom looks like for my season. We can do all kinds of things well in our lives, but not all in the same season, every season. We can certainly juggle differing roles in each season and can have multi-dimensions to our lives and thrive – but discerning that sweet spot of walking in God’s Spirit takes connection with God’s Spirit!

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5, NIV

Going to God first helps me not only bypass some of the roller coaster emotions that come with trying to reason all of this out on my own, but it knits my affection back to Him as I see His hand guide me to wisdom! Always, always, God is after our heart. The juggling and the struggling is ultimately about snuggling – with Him!

Second: Seek wise counsel!

It’s humbling to seek counsel, it requires us admitting we don’t know it all. Yesterday someone sought counsel of me and we were both blessed for it. Today I sought counsel from someone else and we were both blessed for it. Wise counsel offers us rearview mirrors to see blindspots, and helps us align our lives with what is true. Wise counsel can also spot shame at work in our minds for us when we cannot see it for ourselves (like for me today). Shame can prevent us from starting things – or rushes us to end things – prematurely. There is no shame in quitting the circus, but there is no shame in jumping into the spotlight either! And there is no shame in switching hats out behind the bleachers, doing a bit of both with wisdom. I grew in my understanding of this today because of wise counsel. Now a new peace is shifting my plans around a bit!

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22

There are more wise steps we can take in discerning what matters from what seems to matter in our lives, all in alignment with God’s Word. You would probably add a lot to the list from your own journey! But for this week these two are giving me enough support to make my next peace-filled steps, which I may even share more on next week!


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