I realized the meaning of the term ‘three-ring circus’ for the first time when I went with Will’s kindergarten class to the circus in Birmingham. Finally seated after an hour’s bus ride, a class-wide potty trip, and an obligatory purchase of a neon light-up sword so Will wouldn’t be the only one with nothing to wave when the lights went down, I turned to look down on the arena floor.
There were literally three rings, and in each ring mind-boggling stuff was happening. In ring one a lion-tamer was sticking his head in the jaws of a maned king of the savannah. In the middle ring a group of 8-year-old contortionists were folded backward on themselves and building a pyramid. And in the third ring a motocross rider was circling the interior of a clear sphere faster than vision could follow. We really just followed his fire-trail. Around the edges were elephants and jugglers and dancers in gauzy leotards and souvenir hawkers.
Ahhhh, I said to myself. A three-ring circus. Too much to look at. Got it.
Will is a junior, so that field trip was 12 years ago. But I was reminded of it this weekend when I was praying earnestly for peace and forgiveness from the guilt of a cold hard heart, and it occurred to me that at the moment my heart was not my problem. My head was. My head was a three-ring circus. There were lion-tamers and jugglers and elephants and contortionists and motocross riders running riot through my thoughts. I had no peace and no ability to impose order on the circus. There are moments in life when all we can do is sit very still and hope we look calm, graceful, ladylike, and serene. That was me. Containment is a good discipline. It doesn’t solve the problem, but it’s a good start.
In the contained moment I was listening for the Lord. He reminded me with wonderful practicality, “Child, you are dust, 49 year old dust. Beloved and redeemed, but for now, still dust.”
I reasoned then that the circus was not due to the state of my heart, but to the state of my body which is frail and ever seeking to return to the ground from which it came. It is not alarming or even surprising that our peace suffers when our body does. It was His kindness to remind me, while I sat in self-imposed ladylike serenity during church, of the hormonal realities that can produce circuses. I think I might have actually smiled up at Him.
Peace began to descend. The surge diminished; the circus closed down and moved to another town. Vision cleared, and I read:
‘It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.’ Lamentations 3: 26
“For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:14
Thank You, Lord, that circuses move on.
Thank You that You remind me that my frame is dust and my spirit sometimes gets dusty too.
Thank You for helping this dust wait quietly for You.