Sometimes I take my son down the toy aisle and let him check out all the different toys. He finds something bright and noisy and walks around with it for a bit until he notices something else bright and noisy and wants to hold that too. He walks happily for a minute with both hands full; then a third bright, noisy toy catches his eye and he wants that too, not instead, too—so he juggles what he’s holding until he succeeds in carrying all three.
This works fine for a minute but eventually something falls. Still not wanting to let anything go, he chases down the dropped toy and maneuvers everything around again. He tries to play with the first toy but the second one is in his way. When he plays with the second toy, the third one rolls away again. He’s frustrated now—frustrated because he wants more than what he can hold and because he can’t enjoy any of it when he’s trying to enjoy all of it at once.
I try convincing him to leave something behind; choose your favorite and play with just that one thing instead. He won’t have it—he wants all three, all at once. Eventually we leave the toy aisle with nothing but a frustrated toddler who has yet to learn that sometimes you must put one thing down in order to hold and enjoy another.
But he’s not the only one in need of this lesson. So often when I hear myself instructing my son on how life works and how things ought to be done, I realize the lesson is as much for me as it is for him.
You can only hold and enjoy so many things at once—I know, but I want all of them. I want to be in five different places doing ten different things making everyone happy all at once—without being tired or frustrated. I juggle and try to maneuver too many things around in my hands, refusing to acknowledge that sometimes you must simply say no or let something go to truly enjoy all the things you should actually say yes to.
We are given a numbered amount of time—8,760 hours a year divided into months and weeks and days and made up of minutes that keep on ticking, ticking by. We are limited by time, quite simply, because we are not God who stands outside of time. We can’t do everything all the time because we are finite and must operate within the limits of our humanity. So, we must choose.
We must choose what few things we will hold in our hands and how we will use the time and strength we’ve been given. Will I do a few things with all my heart and energy or will I, like a toddler, stretch myself thin over too many choices trying to enjoy and be responsible for far more than I was intended.
Today, I am learning to choose and to leave behind whatever I cannot and should not be trying to hold. If there are things I want that interfere with what’s most important to me—my marriage, motherhood, my relationship with God, making a home, being in control of myself in the way I eat, rest, and care for my body—then those things need to be put down and left behind. Just because something in itself is good and desirable doesn’t mean I have the room in my hands to hold it.
I have only so much time and energy to give; only so much I can hold and carry at once. So sometimes, oftentimes, I must choose—what’s most important—what will I hold and carry with me and what will I leave behind?