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The Theory of 1,000 Marbles

Even being newly retired, I’m finding it is still hard to “get it all done” and prioritize. There are always interruptions, especially when you care for others. The Scriptures this week lend themselves to looking at the rhythm of the Christian life, serving and resting. Even Jesus and his disciples were often so overwhelmed with “working”, one interruption after another, that eating, and resting were difficult to keep in any kind of patterned rhythm. The following story about marbles reminds us that life is short but can be lived fully.

With coffee cup in hand, a man was headed for some Saturday morning solitude, listening to his ham radio in the basement. He tuned in and heard an older man telling a younger man about “a thousand marbles”. He said: “Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you’re busy with your job. I’m sure they pay you well, but it’s a shame you must be away from your home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. Too bad you missed your daughter’s dance recital. Let me tell you something Tom, something that has helped me keep a good perspective on my own priorities.” And so, he explained the theory of “a thousand marbles”.

He continued, “I calculated that 75 years is an average life span. I multiplied 75 times by 52 and figured there are 3,900 Saturdays that the average personal has in their lifespan. At 55 years old, I probably had about 1,000 left to enjoy. So, I went to a toy store and rounded up 1,000 marbles, which I put in a clear plastic jug. Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away. As I focused on the really important things in life, I grew in joy and love. There is nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help you get your priorities straight. Let me tell you one more thing Tom, before I sign off and take my dear wife out to breakfast. I took my last marble out of the jug this morning. I figure if I make it until next Saturday, then God has given me a little more time…to enjoy.”

The ham radio conversation ended. The man in the basement went upstairs and woke up his wife with a kiss. “C’mon honey, I’m taking you and the kids to breakfast.” She replied with a smile, “What brought this on?” He said, “Oh nothing special, it’s just been a long time since we spent a Saturday together as a family. Hey, can we stop by a toy store while we’re out? I need to buy some marbles.”

No matter how many marbles you have left, my prayer is that you will live the rest of them having set your priorities (in spite of interruptions) of your faith in God, loving your family, and being a child of God in service to all the rest of your brothers and sisters in Christ.

— Rev. Pam Stewart


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