Engaging in a workshop on crafting a Rule or rhythm of life and living with Steve Macchia, I found myself sharing the impression that I wanted and needed to “repent of” (i.e., get a new mind about) an old metaphor I have employed across the years. At the very least, it’s a metaphor in need of a makeover.
First the metaphor. Then, the basis of my newfound desire to “repent” of it.
Through the years, I have been witness to (and even employed) an object lesson about priorities that goes something like this…
With a jar and walnuts (or rocks or ping pong balls) and a handful of popcorn (or sand or rice),
I have noted the difference:
- How, when you put all the popcorn in first and then add the walnuts, you can’t put a lid on things.
- But, when you put the big things in first and then add the same amount of popcorn, it all fits… to the end that you can put a lid on it!
And, then we move to a naming of pieces in the metaphor:
- The jar represents your life.
- The walnuts are the important things – God, your partner and family, your health– the things most important to you and your life… and your living.
- The popcorn is all other things that press for attention – maybe, say, mindless television viewing or shopping or playing games on your iphone or various social commitments… or any number of not-so-essential things.
And, then we might move to the closer, the big punchline—something along these lines:
“Spend all your time and energy on the small stuff and you will never have room for the things that are most important to life and living. But, pay attention to the things that are big and critical to your meaning and fulfillment… and the little things will fall into place!”
I don’t know about you, but the metaphor as described above overwhelms me – inspiring a certain claustrophobia. It’s wrapped up in that notion of squeezing as much as you can into the jar… and then putting a lid on it.
Truth is – for me, now in my life – I don’t want the jar of my life to be that full and crammed – as if the goal of each day is to cover as much ground and get as much done as possible.
My soul aches for margin – for some breathing space and room.
Maybe, in fact, I don’t need a good bit of the kernels. And, maybe, just maybe, some of the things that I have held as big nuts aren’t really that big or important!
And putting a lid on things?
God, you see, may not be one of the big nuts in the jar! Maybe God is in all of the things [the jar, the kernals, and the nuts]… and God is in the air that infiltrates and surrounds it all!
(Here, I cannot help but recall the notion of prayer as “spiritual breathing.”)
- Considering the nuts vs the popcorn
- Maybe downsizing and redefining what is what and what needs to stay
- Asking what kind of margin and breathing room we have in life
- Considering, perhaps, what to do with that “lid”
. . . . .
In that same workshop, Steve shared some research findings that, on average, people tap, swipe, and click their phones a whopping 2,617 times each day!
Come to think about it, I might have found the need for another jar… and its lid!