The Juggler and the Conductor

Stephan N. Tchividjian, National Christian Foundation President

I’m intrigued by both the juggler and the conductor, though I prefer the latter. Lately I have been experiencing both in my life. I feel that I’m often juggling many various responsibilities, and like a good juggler, my goal is to keep the items I’m juggling from hitting the ground… just keep “em movin.” However, I sense that I’m also conducting the lives of those that fall within my purview. A conductor simply is trying to take talented noise and guide it towards symphonic beauty. I sense both in my life and perhaps you do too. 


The juggler

The juggler intrigues me on several levels. Usually, when I’ve encountered a juggler, it’s in a somewhat festive environment, perhaps a circus or a “Mallory Square” type of sunset. A juggler catches the attention of the audience, usually by surprise, with his or her act. The oohs and aahs can be heard as the juggler manages to juggle various items that don’t naturally exist in the air. Sometimes danger is imported, such as fire or a sharp blade, which naturally elicits more oohs and aahs. I wonder why does the juggler do this, what purpose is there in juggling these items, and what is the fascination we have in watching, with wonder… the juggler juggle? My hunch is the juggler is doing this because the juggler has realized that he or she can earn a little extra income from the coins that are tossed their way, or they just simply enjoy the attention of the crowd.

I’ve never met a person whose primary identification in life is that of a juggler. Does a person grow up with a deep fascination and innate desire to become a world class juggler? Can someone have a calling to be a juggler? I’ve meet people who will reveal that they have acquired this juggling talent; however, it’s usually after some prodding around the ice breaker question, “tell me something about yourself that no one would know.” Usually, in my experience, the juggler is showcased at some sort of fair or party, where the act of juggling is more of a secondary focus, a means to an end, a way to get some laughs and make some money.


The conductor

conductorThe conductor, on the other hand, is usually only observed in one setting, a concert. Usually, the environment is a bit more scheduled and sophisticated. The conductor, unlike the juggler, is not acting alone. In fact, one rarely notices the conductor because the role of the conductor is to draw out the collective talent and skill of those being conducted. The conductor’s role is to produce a finely crafted melody from the collective talent. The conductor faces his or her members with their back to the very audience assembled to be entertained and mesmerized. The juggler on the other hand draws the attention to himself and always faces the audience. The conductor has nothing but a small wand, which only acts as an extension of the hand. The conductor and those being conducted are acting with defined purpose, working off a defined sheet of music. The juggler is more random. The conductor reveals the best of others, even if they must push a little too hard. The juggler has no members other than himself and has no one to challenge him. The juggler’s act provides a momentary sense of fun. The conductor’s orchestra transports you to a place of awe.


Recognizing the difference

I find lately I’m a bit of both. The juggler in me is often out of necessity, and the conductor is out of intentionality. My juggling is not very life-giving though it’s entertaining. I do get some oohs and aahs, but that’s not why God put me on this planet. Juggling takes energy but conducting takes work. I believe I do that with God sometimes. I juggle when I get too busy and overextend myself. I end up taking the items in my life and simply focus on keeping them in the air. I juggle God, my marriage, my family, my work, my health, my finances etc. I develop a “just keep em movin” mentality. Juggling puts a lot of attention on me, and I know that is not God’s intention. The irony is that when I’m juggling, I believe I’m earning God’s applause with the “look at all I’m doing for you God.” The fallacy of that attitude is on the emphasis of “look at all I’m doing” unaware, my juggling has put the attention on me. My thoughts, my prayer life, my conversations, my attitude tends to place the effort, skill, talent and action on me. 

However, when I conduct, it comes from a place of tranquility and peace. I find that my life is on purpose. I’m rested. I have capacity and I’m in communion with Jesus. I love to conduct even though it requires much more discipline, restraint, humility and courage. I notice that when I conduct, I fade out of the spotlight and God’s music surfaces through the collective “we” and not the “I”. Hence, I realize my greatest success is found when I conduct and not when I juggle.

Therefore, I ask myself a simple question: “How can I juggle less and conduct more?” I find that the answer to that question can be very different for everybody, but here are a few thoughts that help me. First, I need to understand and recognize the difference. Simply said, there are times I think I’m conducting when I’m really juggling. A little self-reflection and accountability tend to reveal that. Second, I must engage others. My default is too often to go it alone. Frankly, it’s simpler and requires less work. However, if there is no orchestra there is no need of a conductor. The lonely conductor finds himself looking like one of those car dealerships balloons, lonely waiving the arms and trying to get attention, but only receiving laughs. Perhaps when I feel lonely, it’s a sign I’m juggling too much. Lastly, I must be incredibly intentional. However, my intentionality is not derived from my discipline, but my willingness to stop and hear God. I hear God when I am quiet, when I listen more and speak less, when I follow a Psalm 1 pathway. I find that in doing these He becomes the conductor I desire to mimic, and the distracting juggler becomes far less necessary. 


Stephan N. Tchividjian is the president and founder of the National Christian Foundation South Florida. Visit to learn more.

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