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  • Writer's pictureJay Whitmer

Bursting the Bubble

Updated: May 4, 2021

When I sold books door to door in college, I was firmly warned never to get off schedule. We were tasked with 14 hour dawn-to-dark days, 6 days a week, which led to an army of crazy college kids who proudly received the 80-hour badge of honor. Which was only presented if you sustained this insane pace for the entire summer.

What’s the harm of getting off schedule, you ask? After all, isn’t 80-hours totally unhealthy and unbalanced, even for a 20 year-old punk? Well once you go to the movies in the middle of the day, or catch a ballgame instead of knocking on the next door, good luck selling much of anything. 14 hours turns into 10 which quickly becomes 3, and then the summer is shot (and many kids end up running home prematurely as a result).

While this might be an unusual example (and not exactly an extension of the real world), I’m guessing most people have experienced both extremes of the rhythm of work and responsibility. There are times when everything is humming and rolling, maybe sometimes so much so that it gets overwhelming. But at least we can move to the rhythm of the beat without even thinking about it.

On the other hand, getting off schedule for a day, week, or an entire season can be frustrating as if all of a sudden we have two left feet. Stop and go, or more likely stop and stumble. It’s hard to get much done or feel like anything is getting accomplished when routines are blown up. More often than not, this isn’t driven by a bad habit of laziness or purposeful procrastination because we feel like we deserve a Ferris Bueller day. It’s just that the waters of life get a bit choppy and unpredictable, and it’s hard to dance on a slippery rocky boat.

If given the option, you’d think we would all crave and seek more structure, stability, and security. Where there is firmer ground and an orbit of calculated and planned routine. Navigation is so much easier with better visibility on the horizon. Doesn’t that sound easier and more comfortable?

Except for the fact that this sounds like a bubble to me. Not just a bubble that trapped Jim Carrey in The Truman Show where nothing was actually real, but still a bubble of unrealistic expectations. A bubble of keeping up with the Joneses. A bubble of doing what we think others want us to do. A bubble of showing off our calendar commitments and how busy and on schedule we look (that is if anyone is actually looking or even cares).

Ever reflect on not just the written rules but the increasingly unwritten rules of what our orbit should look like? Where does this social gravity come from, anyway? It feels like too many of us are chasing the glamour of health, wealth, and happiness. This is what the Bible simply refers to as a pursuit to eat, drink, and be merry. Or what Solomon calls a bubble of vanity and meaninglessness.

Naturally this is not a discourse against discipline. A tight schedule certainly helped me throughout both high school and college and into my career, and I can already see the benefit for my boy who needs similar structure to stay focused and on task.

But what’s at the root of my pursuits, and what’s really behind my motivations?

Clearly my bubble burst when we started treatment at the Cleveland Clinic. And my routine has been anything but normal since transitioning out of a 20-year career.

But this isn’t a difficult time, nor am I “off schedule” and out of sorts. It’s just a change of course, a new orbit. One with a lot more learning and growth than I ever would have anticipated. One with new challenges and new perspectives and new muscles to flex.

Which makes me wonder what else I need to proactively change to make sure a new bubble doesn’t emerge in place of the last one. This probably takes more than self-awareness and self-discipline, which is why we’re praying to see just a glimpse of what God sees. So that we’re not singularly focused on our own orbit but His.

Tired of constantly chewing and blowing your own bubbles? Maybe today is the day to burst that bad boy and chart a new course.

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