When Your Life Feels Like A Pinball Machine



I woke up this morning and journaled: “Lord, I’m feeling pinbally in my mind…scooting from one thing to another. Responsibilities, a few personal heartaches, a trip to get ready for… And also, friends who are struggling, the daily stuff like grocery shopping and setting up doctor’s appointments.” The list goes on. You too?

Life is full and sometimes the details of that fullness seem to ricochet around in our thoughts like the old time pinball machine’s balls bouncing around from one bumper to another while our hands frantically push the buttons to keep the balls in action. Oh…and those buzzers, lights, and bells always add to the commotion and chaos.  Sigh. Which ball should I keep in action today?! Now?!

One of my mentors, Elisabeth Elliot, used to say that when we’re in the midst of pinbally lives (she didn’t use the word pinbally), a wise way to respond is to DO THE NEXT THING.  Rather than frantically tapping and hitting bumpers to keep all the balls in action, consider how you can pause, recalibrate, and then move into action. Do the next thing. Then the next.

Here are some ideas to help you recapture your day (and mind, and sanity), when the pinballs of your life are bouncing and the buzzers are buzzing.

  1. STOP and PRAY. Yes, a wise step is to lift your heart’s focus to God in conversation. Just say, “Help!” or “Guide me, Lord!” or “Calm my mind, my heart, and my emotions.”
  1. DO the next thing. What are the responsibilities that you must attend to THIS morning, or afternoon, or evening? It may be mundane, it may be monumental. Perhaps a routine chore you’ve done a zillion times or a scary step of faith. What is it? As a mom, wife, employee, leader, daughter, sister, friend? Have you given your word regarding praying for someone, assisting in the midst of a crisis, calling or emailing a friend? Do you have tasks that must be taken care of today at work, in your home, at church? Do the next thing sister, and as you do, ask Jesus to give you joy in being his This is the key heart-calibration: you belong to the Lord, not to your pinbally schedule. 
  1. LOVE God, LOVE people. My friend Heather has a simple motto for life: love God and love people. It’s pretty biblical when you consider that Jesus said the entire law was summed up in these two commands! So, TODAY: what will love for God and others look like? Minimally, it is to turn to him and verbalize your need for him as well as your desire to keep your heart focused on him through this day, in the midst of doing the next thing. Loving people really follows from that. What people will be in your path today, either in presence or via tech mediated communication. When my day feels stressful with responsibilities, I know the temptation will be to truck on through my tasks, and ever so subtly push people aside. I’ve learned to pray, “Lord please protect people from my sin today and cause each person you put in my path to feel cared for and respected.”  Practice Galatians 5:6 today, seeking to express your faith in love. Loving thoughts, actions, words, presence…to whoever is in your path today.
  1. WALK IN THE LIGHT GIVEN for today. All we have is today! Yesterday is gone and tomorrow is, well…tomorrow! We don’t have it yet. So, if there are concerns about the future, decisions you need to make, fear rising up from the unknown— walk by faith in what IS clear today. This helps me so much when my pinball thoughts start bouncing forward into the future that is not revealed to me yet. But there usually are LOTS of things that are clearly in front of me TO DO, TODAY. Like writing this blog post. Seeking to love God and readers of enCourage through my spiritual journey. Who can you encourage today? What people (little, big, older, younger) can you express your faith in love to today?
  1. SET YOUR HOPE fully on the grace that is yet to come. 1 Peter 1:13 says our hope is to be in the future grace of our utter union with Jesus. Wait a minute…does this contradict #4? Absolutely not! We live faithfully today, but place our ultimate hope not in this world (or our obedience while we live on it), but in our true home, God. He alone is our eternal Dwelling Place and refuge from this pinballistic world. Live, love, walk…with your heart fixed on Jesus Christ.

These days, I’m praying Psalm 19:14 a lot: “Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditation in my heart be pleasing to you; for you are my Rock and my Redeemer.” This may be one of the prayers you offer in Step #1. Then…move on…do the next thing!