We're talking about intentional living, living out our daily lives with the important things front and center. We've covered distractions and the prioritizing of the roles we play. But what do we do when there's a continual gap between what we want our priorities to be and how we structure our time?
I will be totally upfront and honest and tell you that I have struggled with this in the past in very big ways. Damaging ways. When our book came out in October 2014, I was consumed by marketing and book sales. It wasn't about the money. It was about my needing to prove my worth, my desire to please my publishing house, and my need to be esteemed by Amazon rankings.
Here I had a book about the importance of marriage and relationships and I spent all my emotional energy on my job. I took every single writing opportunity. Craig and I did every single radio event we were invited to. I talked in person or phone or Facebook Messenger that asked me questions or needed help.
And then my kids would come home from school and I would have absolutely nothing to give them, except the bare minimum. I remember the day that I realized how backward my priorities were like it was yesterday. I was standing at the top of the stairs, my youngest daughter was in front of me, her eyes pleading for me to be able to meet her emotional needs, and I had absolutely nothing in the tank.
This was a moment where my Father had to sound off every single alarm and wave every single red flag. It was a visual display of warning and discipline. I had to stop this behavior or my kids would not have the mom God designed them to have. Or, better yet, I would not be the person God designed me to be.
God didn't design me to sell books. God designed me to have authentic relationships with my family, my friends, and to tell my story to the world. He designed me to raise a family that would have an impact on the community in which we live. He designed me to value people over things and hearts over numbers and rankings. He designed me to look like Him.
He designed you to look like Him, too.
But to be honest, I wasn't studying His blueprints for my life. And by blueprints, I mean His Word. And I will tell you, since I was teaching Bible study at the time, I was reading His Word. I was in the Bible and teaching Scriptures, but I was studying so I could teach, not so I could learn. It is possible to undertake theological study and to still be spiritually immature. How do I know? Because I let numbers usurp my #1 priority even when it looked like I was doing everything right on the outside.
I could tell people what the Bible said about how to live and how to grow and how to love, but because of my own brokenness, I didn't know how to deep-down-on-the-inside trust that process. My life kinda looked like what I taught on the outside, but if you saw, really saw, you'd have seen I was always hedging my bets. Yes, God loves me even if I'm a blob on the couch, but just in case He doesn't, I'm going to work myself so hard that there's no question about my character or my worth.
Here's the thing: There's no way to live with God as my first priority without full trust. There's no way to say that God is number one in my life when I'm looking to prove something. There's no way to say that I have fully surrendered myself to His will if I am not obedient.
At church on Sunday, we started a new series called "Timeless." It's about investing our time in things that are timeless—things like relationships, for example. Pastor Buck did the rock demonstration that originated with Steven Covey (you can watch Covey's demo here or listen to the entire NorthPoint sermon called "Lasting Happiness" here.) The point is this: If we neglect to put those big rocks (our first priorities) in first and, instead, we fill our time with less important things, our big rocks will not fit in our lives. And this, we will regret. How do I know? Have you ever asked someone who was near the end of his/her life and they say, "Man, I sure do wish I spent more time on Facebook and Candy Crush."
In order to fulfill our purpose on this earth, we have to prioritize our relationships. Yes, we will have seasons when work in intense or we have extended family members who may require extra care, but in general, our first priorities must continually stay our first priorities. The only way I have come to make this happen in my life most consistently is by making sure the "God Rock" is always in my life's container first.
Why is the "God Rock" so important? So many things compete for my attention. So many lies still infiltrate my life. There are so many opportunities (and so many of them are good!) available. There are many problems to be solved.
How do I know what things to pay attention to? How do I know when I'm shaping my time and behavior because I'm trying to prove myself against a lie? How do I know which opportunities aren't just good, but the best ones for me? How do I know which problems God wants me to work with Him to solve and which ones I just need to let go?
I need the God Rock to orient me. I need the God Rock to stand on. I need the God Rock because if I don't communicate with Him and invest in that relationship, there is absolutely no way I will keep my priorities straight. I know this. I have tried. I end up chasing the tangible and the fickle and the mundane. And this is exhausting and unfulfilling.
How can we choose the God Rock every day? By no means is this an exhaustive list, but here are some concrete ways you can get started:
- First thing, invite God in. When you wake up, instead of reaching for your phone, sit up in bed for a minute and invite God into your day. Ask Him to orient your steps, take a few moments to sit in silence and listen. If you wake up worried and anxious, tell Him. Tell Him what you'd like Him to do about it. Pray for the people involved. Then, put your feet on the floor.
- Invest in a Scripture-filled devotional. There are so many out there from general ones to ones that specifically help with single issues with which you may be struggling (i.e. grief). Personally, I have loved Jesus Calling by Sarah Young and He Holds My Hand by Carol Kent. Some top rated ones on Amazon also include New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp and One God, One Plan, One Life by Max Lucado. But it doesn't help to only read it. Take a few moments to talk to God about it. Then, take a few moments to listen.
- Pick a book of the Bible and start reading. You're not going to always understand everything. It's a process. I've also loved studying God's Word with commentary. I've been loving William Barclay's commentary. You can buy them book by book and they're on Amazon, too. Grab a tool like "Unleash" that's specificially designed to help you digest adn apply God's Word in your life. Again, reading the Bible for knowledge doesn't make you more spiritually grounded. Application and communication are key.
- Have a prayer focus for every day. Right now, on my calendar, I have certain people, or groups of people, for most days of the week. Of course, we can always pray for whatever whenever, but having the focus of the day reminds me to pray.
- Meditate on one Scripture verse. If I'm struggling to believe some part of God's Truth, I will choose a Scripture that helps me move God's Word from my head to my heart. Not only am I repeating God's truth, but I'm also using it as a weapon against the lies that come at me. God's Word is called the sword of the Spirit.
- Seek God first. There are so many things I just assume I can and should handle on my own. Through this season of grief, however, everything seems a little harder. As such, I've begun to cultivate the practice of asking for God's help in all things instead of just the things I think I can't handle alone.
We can't have solid relationships without investment. God has invested His Son into you and deeply desires to love you, to lead you, and to fellowship with you. Spending time with God has never been something I have regretted. Somehow, everything that He wants me to do, ends up getting done, including rest. He is the inventor of time, so us saying "we have no time" is limiting God's power in our lives and indicative of a lack of trust. The best part is that my investment of time with God helps my investment with those around me, especially my family.
Is your God Rock in your life container? What does keeping Him as a priority look like to you?