There was a juggler in Great Park, the land of the King, who wanted to perform with the Juggling Master’s troupe more than anything else in the whole world. But he had something terrible hidden in his heart, a secret he had shared with no one man. . .
So begins another story that assisted me through my journey of ending my own secret inner struggle. This story is one in a series of wonderful allegorical tales of the kingdom of God, aptly named Kingdom Tales. (The best price I’ve found on this incredible book, is through My Father’s World. On their homepage, search for Kingdom Tales. I couldn’t figure out how to link it directly or I would have.)
In God’s infinite wisdom and mercy, I read this story at exactly the right moment. I had just been reconnected with a friend I had lost touch with a decade earlier. She was a non-practicing Jew when I knew her, but sometime during our separation, she met and fell in love with the Savior. Her passion for Him and her love for the word was not unfamiliar to me. I knew that passion myself. And most of my friends from church were equally sold-out for God. We read His word daily. We spurred one another on to love and good deeds.
What was different about her was her Jewishness. She loved Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew) and his entire word, including his law. She loved the weekly Sabbath and all of the yearly feast days. She loved God’s design for edible animals versus non-edible ones. She was my Sabbath side on steroids.
My inner struggle became my inner nuclear war.
On the one hand, it was incredible to have someone who had already waded through so much of the same stuff to dialogue with about it all. On the other, it was extremely disconcerting. For a decade, my Sunday side had dominated. I was integrated with an amazing group of believers among whom I saw more fruit than I had ever seen among my Sabbath churches. I was pretty comfortable with the positions my Sunday side had developed to deal with all of my Sabbath side’s concerns. But now, every time I talked with my Messianic Jewish friend, all of those positions were called into question. Not in a confrontational way, but in a let’s-study-the-word-and-rejoice-in-what-we-find-no-matter-how-different-it-is kind of way.
Still, it was a lot to deal with. At one point, I had to tell her that I was overwhelmed by our conversations and had to slow down to process it all. Truthfully, I just wasn’t sure I wanted to process any of it. That’s when I read the story of the Apprentice Juggler.
In the story, the Apprentice Juggler tries to suppress his inner count which was contrary to the count the rest of his troupe followed. Keeping the rhythm that was ticking in his heart from reaching his hands was exhausting and lonely work. His angst reached its climax just before an important performance for the King himself.
The Apprentice Juggler had longed his whole life to perform for the King and to see him smile in response. But he feared that he wouldn’t be able to keep his inner count down. He feared losing his place in the troupe.
I’ll let the story speak for itself here.
In anger, the Apprentice Juggler tossed the balls he held. This time he kept his own count. Sure enough, the balls moved at awkward intervals. The juggling was not smooth. The rising and falling rhythms were hazardous. He had to tell his secret. He would never be like the other jugglers. . .
A beggar stopped by the boy and asked, “Juggler, are you performing for the Great Celebration?”
The young man shook his head. Suddenly he wanted to stutter out his secret. He wanted to say, “I have something hidden in my heart.”
The beggar motioned for him to step closer and whispered, “I saw you juggling just now. Keep your own count. Listen to the rhythm of your own timing.”
The Apprentice Juggler was amazed. How could a beggar know his count was wrong when he had guarded the truth from everyone?
The beggar laughed. He said, “I understand. My rhythm is different, too.” With that, the beggar turned to make entrance.
The boy heard the Rangers shout, “To the King! To the Restoration!” The form of the man stood there, changed. He was as tall as a Ranger Commander and handsome. The light from the flames reflected as gold glints in his hair. He bent and swung a little child up to his broad shoulders. . .
The beggar is the King, thought the Apprentice Juggler. He had said, “Keep your own count.”
The King raised his one hand, still holding the little child on his shoulder with the other. His voice commanded, “Let the celebration begin!”
In response to the King’s command, the musicians began to play a joyful, foot-tapping melody. . .
The whole troupe was juggling, each on their own. Some tossed balls. Some looped rings. Then it was time for the Apprentice Juggler’s first solo act. All the others stopped.
The young man’s heart was in his throat. What if a ball dropped? What if he tripped? What if he couldn’t control his count? Then he remembered the Beggar King and his words. “Listen to the rhythm of your own timing.”
He listened. A new count was rising in him, his own count. Joy came tumbling. It filled his hands, his heart. The count was different from anything he had ever heard. Throw * Throwcatch * Catch * Catchcatch * Throw; Throw * Throwcatch * Catch * Catchcatch * Throw.
He tossed an orange high, high into the air. Then another and another. He caught the first orange right before it hit the ground. The crowd gasped. He caught and tossed the next falling one off his foot. The people gasped again; then they laughed. The Apprentice Juggler dived for the third, tossed it, turned a somersault, caught the next inches off the ground, popped it back up into the air. The crowd roared.
He heard murmurs. “Oh! He’s wonderful!” “I’ve never seen a juggler like him before!” “How different!”
He went on listening to the inner timing. Throw * Throwcatch * Catch * Catchcatch * Throw. He juggled and somersaulted and dived and counted. Finally, he was done. The crowd laughed. They clapped. They yelled hurrah and stamped their feet and hands.
The Apprentice Juggler bowed. He stood straight and bowed again. This time when he looked up, he was looking directly into the eyes of the King.
The King was smiling his approval.
“A clown! A clown!” someone was crying. It was the Juggling Master.
“You have the rhythm of a clown!” he crowed. “You look like you can’t do it. . . .You look like you might drop something. But you don’t! A clown is the best juggler of all!”
The Juggling Master became stern. He shook the juggler’s shoulders. “Why didn’t you tell me your rhythm was different?”
“Be-be-because,” stammered the young man between shakes. “I-I thought I would lose my place in the troupe.”
The Juggling Master stopped shaking him. “Lose your place? Find your proper place, rather. Didn’t you know that in the Great Celebration, all who desire a place, find a place?”
With that, the Juggling Master put his head back and laughed. “A juggler with the instinct of a clown! Oh, they are rare! They are rare! What a troupe we’ll have! We’ll bring down the house! We will make the balls dance!”
So the Apprentice Juggler lost his place in the troupe, but found another. For all who live by the rhythm of the inner timing, which the King approves, find a place in the Kingdom all their own. More than any, they live happily ever after.
The Striking Parallels
Upon finishing this story the first time, tingles raced through me. The parallels between me and the Apprentice Juggler were striking:
He loved his troupe just as I loved my church.
His inner count was different from his troupe’s count just as my inner count – my Sabbath side – was different from my church’s.
He feared that his inner count would alienate him from his troupe just as I feared that my inner count would separate me from the precious believers I loved.
He feared that his inner count would disappoint his King just as I feared my inner count was somehow contrary to the desires of my King.
When he first tried listening to his inner count before meeting the Beggar King it was messy and seemed disastrous. When I was engaged in dialogue with my inner count, it seemed equally messy and disastrous. Even after receiving the King’s instruction to follow the count, it didn’t immediately make sense to the Apprentice Juggler. It certainly wasn’t anything familiar to most people. But it turned into something beautiful and unique, something that pleased his King and his fellow kingdom dwellers. And that’s where the parallels ended. I had never followed my inner count long enough to see anything beautiful from it.
The Moment of Freedom
But through this story, it seemed the Holy Spirit was urging me to stop trying to suppress the foreign inner count. Hope for peace and fulfilment filled my whole being, and at that moment, I felt free to listen to the voice I had so long fought against. I was no longer fearful of stumbling and failing. If the King approved my count, which I would find out as I tested everything, I would find a place in the kindgom all my own. Even though I didn’t know exactly how it would all play out, I was filled with faith in the possibility of the wonderful skills I had acquired from my troupe, my church, blending with this foreign inner count in a beautiful way.
I was now free to explore the possibilities.
More on what I found during those explorations to come…