Spinning plates


When I served on a nuclear submarine as head of the Engineering Department, there were many, many tasks, machinery, and people to oversee.  On occasion the numerous responsibilities were overwhelming.  This role was described as trying to keep plates spinning.

I would move from task to task, just trying to keep it moving forward.  Never making great progress on any one thing, but rather reactively moving from plate to plate to keep it spinning, so it would not fall over and crash.  Fortunately, I never crashed the submarine.

Now many years later, I don’t have quite as many urgent responsibilities.  Life comes at a more gradual pace.   I have time to reflect and look back at what I have achieved over the past five decades.  At times I wish I would have accomplished something epic, something big, something profound and memorable.

I have come to realize that something epic is not what I am called to do.  I am not wired for it.  I am called to the small things in life – to be faithful in the talents that God has given me.   Jesus commends a poor widow for giving her all.  Her gift of two copper coins was insignificant in value, but it was her heart to give all she had that was.

I have many small plates.  I give them a little attention on a consistent basis.  These plates already exist in my life: my children (including surrogates), my family, my friends, my neighbors, my community.

I am loyal to all of these.  They bring meaning and value to my life.

After a long time, the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.  And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.  Enter into the joy of your master.’  Matthew 25: 19-21 (ESV)

God has given me some talents.  I don’t envision a grand and epic achievement in life.  Rather, I keep these small plates spinning.  I care.  I connect.  I contribute.  I try my best to be authentic to the people in my life.  I help where I am gifted, inclined, and passionate.

I hope that some day, I will hear the words “well done good and faithful servant”.  Until then, I will live each day with the few tasks before me – keeping the small plates spinning, and not being too concerned about the epic, earth-shaking achievers of the world.

How about you?  Are you destined for great things or will you gradually contribute in small things that will add up to great value?

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About John Forrest