If you asked me my priorities, I’d easily spout off a healthy list of the things I rate higher than others: my faith, my husband, my kids, homeschooling, reading, journaling. Oh, but wait, I could go on. Extended family, friendships, exercise, herb studies… When I start making a list like that, it’s easy to see why I constantly feel pulled in a million different directions.
I’ve been listening to Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism and he talks about the definition and history of the word priority.
Priority: (n) something given special attention; (adj) highest in importance
“As I have written before, the word “priority” came into the English language in the 1400s and it was singular. It meant the very first thing. It stayed singular, very sensibly, for the next 500 years! Only in the 1900s did we pluralize the term and start speaking of “priorities.” So while we can find ourselves feeling that everything is a priority, literally by definition, it can’t be.”
That gives me pause. One priority. Not a list of priorities. That changes things. A lot.
“So while we can find ourselves feeling that everything is a priority, literally by definition, it can’t be.”
So I get one choice. One priority. This one has got me stumped. I spent yesterday seeing if I could come up with a word or idea that would allow me to lump all my “priorities” into one main idea. Pretty sure that defeated the purpose of the exercise.
“By creating the space to think and listen we can discern the first or prior thing among many other good and worthy tasks.” Greg McKeown
I woke up early this morning before the chaos of the day sets in to toss around some ideas. I wanted to sort out all the good and worthy tasks of my day to determine the priority amongst them. First I tossed around the idea that obviously my kids are my priority. But that’s not right, because Daxson and my relationship with him is just as important. I tried to put it in perspective that without my faith, I cannot function so I considered that as my priority. But how does that include my responsibility to care for the people in my lives. Perhaps it does naturally. If I make my vocation, my calling as a wife and mother, my priority, it shifts the priority from one of caregiving to one of being called to care. There’s a big difference between caregiving out of duty and being called to care out of love and service for the Lord. I think I might be onto something but I’m still not quite there yet.
I remember attending a funeral for a sweet little 6 year old a few years ago. The priest gave a homily that seemed to inspire every mom within those church walls (and probably hundreds more as we all rushed forth to share the message). His homily posed the idea that the things we spend time with here on Earth should only be the things that help lead us on our path to Heaven. In terms of parenting, we should be selective about the activities we sign our kids up for and the ways we allow them to fill the gaps of time in their days. Violent video games? Not so much. Books filled with heroic stories? Yes, please. Days spent with neighborhood kids that don’t share the same values just so we have social opportunities? Skip. Days spent in nature glorifying the magnificent handiwork of our Savior? Definitely. Time spent idly watching TV? Of course not. Time spent in the company of like-minded people? Obviously.
But that all probably seems obvious, right? Clearly, we want to fill our children’s lives with the good, the beauty, and the truth. But then I stop and think about myself and all the meaningless tasks I fill my moments with and suddenly it can feel as if I am a terrible steward of the gift of time I have been given. It seems so easy to set a priority for my children (get to Heaven) but it certainly seems more complicated to do the same for myself.
But isn’t our priority all the same? If we are Christians then I’m afraid dear friends, that we cannot be too original in stating our priority (although I’m sure some of you with the gift of wise words could easily come up with various ways to say it). Our priority is to get to Heaven. The means of accomplishing that priority differ for each of us. Some of us are called to marriage and parenthood. Others are called to serve the Lord in the church. Still others are called to remain single.
It seems that once that priority is established firmly in our minds, it should make it a little easier to set forth with making our to-do list. There’s only so much time in the day. It’s important to keep focused on our priority.
So that list you’ve got going…the gardening and the blogging and the social media time and the cooking and the laundry and the schooling and the reading and the…well, you get it. That list? There’s only so much time. Choose wisely.
“When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives.” Ezra Taft Benson