Hello, again! I’ve missed you!
I’m just getting back from an amazing two week trip to Israel with some awesome church friends and Jerusalem University College. I plan on sharing lots of that trip with you guys in the coming days. I’ve been home for a week and am still trying to process everything we experienced on that trip. So I’m asking for your patience. I have pictures to make up for the wait I promise!
Priorities and Choices
Several weeks ago my wonderful and equally crazy roommate and I decided to host a girl’s retreat at our house. We had about 15 teenage girls staying overnight to talk about all kinds of stuff. One of the activities we did was to take a sheet covered in words like Family, Choir, Homework, Friends, etc and have them circle 15 things that were the most important to them. From the 15 we had to narrow that down to just 10 and then 5. Everybody did this pretty easily. I think 5 was a bit tricky but everybody pretty much got it done with minimal effort. But I can’t even explain the amount of anxiety that occurred when I instructed them to narrow their top 5 down to 3. It’s not an easy task! It’s not like they were choosing between their favorite kind of candy or favorite movies. I was asking them to choose between things like Friends, Family, Education, Faith, and Dating/Marriage. These are some good and important things! How in the world do you kick 2 of those things out? It’s not an easy thing to do. It took a good 5-10 minutes for everyone to get down to their top 3. Then we talked about priorities and why it is important for us to make our choices based on what we really value and we can’t do that if we don’t know what we value. It was good stuff! I was being an awesome youth director!
Except I’ve been kicking myself for several days now because I realize…I stopped too soon.
It is definitely important to know the things you value most and where you place your priorities. But what I should have done was push the conversation further and made them get down to just one. Just one thing that is the most important thing. The one thing you will base all your decisions on, the one value you hold most high, your top priority. Because that conversation looks very different than the one we had.
The sometimes uncomfortable truth
The sometimes uncomfortable truth is that I am guilty of thinking that I can have a top 3 list of interchangeable things. That somehow friends, family, and faith are all on the same level and I can interchange them as necessary. Today my priority is family, tomorrow it’s friends, and then on Sunday and Wednesday it’s faith. But it doesn’t work that way. God has to be my top priority and my top value and the place I make all my choices from.
Then God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
~Exodus 20: 1-6
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
~Deuteronomy 6: 5
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment.
~Matthew 22: 36-38
The Greatest and First
God doesn’t want to be in our top 5 priorities or our top 3. He wants to be number 1. He wants to be Greatest and First in our lives. And that isn’t an easy thing to always understand or live out in a world which tells us that we need A LOT of different things. Our culture tells us that we need to pursue the American dream of a spouse, 2.5 kids, a nice house in a nice neighborhood, a job we like and that pays us a good amount. We need the right stuff. We need the right family. We need the right friends. But all we need is to make God the Greatest and First thing our lives. And I’m more and more convinced as I study and pray during this Lenten season that that means looking at some uncomfortable truths about the way I’ve been living and making some changes. It means making myself uncomfortable as I step into situations and callings that aren’t normal or easy for me. It means making some people I love uncomfortable as I tell them no so that I can tell God yes. It means moving forward in faith even when I don’t know what it might cost me. But the most beautiful thing God has taught me is that when I trust and when I put Him first I find my life to be more full and my soul overflowing with gratitude.
New priorities and New choices
I wish I had had that conversation with those teenage girls. I see every week how over-scheduled and over-extended they are with school, activities, and family obligations. Luckily for all of us we serve a God who is really good at making something beautiful out of our less than perfect efforts. I know I’ll get lots more chances…here’s hoping this is one of them. Maybe you, like me, need to hear that it’s good and right to pursue the different talents and gifts you have but don’t place them in front of the One who gave you those talents and gifts. Maybe you, like me, need to hear that it’s good and right to love and care for your family and friends but don’t forsake your Heavenly Father.
My prayer is that we will be able to spend this Lent in prayerful reflection and evaluation of our priorities and our choices. May we find the faith to put God has our number one priority even, and especially, when it doesn’t fit in with what others may think we need to focus on. May we choose to follow God with our whole heart, our whole mind, and our whole being today and every day. And may we find the joy and peace that comes from making God our Greatest and First love.