Ever since I went to my first circus when I was six years old and saw a man juggle three, then four, then six shiny red balls high up in the air, I desperately wanted to learn to juggle. Mesmerized by his ability, I tried juggling on my own when I got home. One ball, two balls, then no balls were in the air. Juggling wasn’t as easy as it looked, but the man seemed to do it effortlessly. Twenty years later, I find myself still learning to juggle, but instead of balls in the air, it’s juggling my role as a seminary student, a youth pastor of sorts to three churches, a mentor to three guys, a marketing coordinator of a Christ-centered fashion-oriented organization, a best friend to two guys, and a son.
My struggle with juggling often comes from time management. As a student, I’m supposed to be primarily focused on learning, getting homework done, and studying hours upon hours. But this is not always the case. Throughout the week, my time is also spent planning Bible studies or weekly sermon topics for Sunday for three churches, planning various fellowship activities to do for the month, and checking up on my high school and college students in my ministry, as well as the guys I mentor. On top of that, at my other job I have to check up on members of my marketing team to check their progress on their work, plan what is to be published for the week and the following week, writing and publishing material, and writing and responding to emails and inquiries. The workload seems to never end. Sometimes, my struggle with my role is a result of ideals.
Working in marketing in fashion can sometimes conflict with my role as a Christian. I have to keep up with the latest trends and utilize up-to-date methods to market events, companies, and products. One doesn’t have to work in marketing to know that sex sells. And in fashion, where image is everything, sexualized images bring in the money. Often, the more provocative the image, the more it gets attention. It’s easy to market a product using sex and it would make my job in marketing a whole lot easier. However, I work for a fashion-oriented organization against sex trafficking and despite working in marketing, I am also a Christian. Even if sex is an effective marketing technique, it conflicts with my company’s mission and my faith. I have to stand firm in my convictions and my faith, even if the rest of the fashion and marketing world sees my role as limiting and my beliefs as a handicap.
My work reminds me of a scene in the television show, The West Wing. Actor Richard Schiff plays Toby Ziegler, the White House Communications Director who is responsible for developing and promoting the President’s agenda through leading its media campaign. In the episode, a man is sentenced for execution and his only hope is for the President to intervene. Ziegler is placed in an opportune position to influence the President’s decision, but chooses not to. In a meeting with his rabbi who tailored a sermon specifically for Ziegler during a temple service, he says, “As Communications Director, uh, I’m a counselor to the President to be sure. But my role in these situations is generally… I create a public face for what… I don’t influence policy.” To which his rabbi replies, “Of course you do.” Surprised by the comment, Ziegler asks, “You want me to go into the Oval Office and say, ‘Vengeance is not Jewish’?” The rabbi’s point is that one’s responsibly to one’s faith doesn’t end at the Temple, but permeates through every facet of one’s life, even work. There is no clean way to separate them.
For the past three years, I’ve been quite successful at failing to juggle all of my roles. I’m still figuring out a way to be an earnest student, to be the kind of youth pastor and mentor God wants me to be, to be that honest marketer, and to be that best friend and son. I think the whole process is only shaping me to be whatever role I need to be at a specific time and to do that role well, even if “doing well” for me is making mistakes. Like the juggler I saw as a kid, he learned to juggle because he practiced. I’m sure he dropped the shiny red balls many times. But eventually, after a lot of practice, learning from past mistakes, and not giving up, he was able to juggle effortlessly so much so that it became second nature.
(Image via iStock)