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Priorities for the pressed

The daily dilemma: do I get my heart or my home in order?

-Madeleine Turner-

Life with a toddler is full on. By far the biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is coming to terms with the fact that there is no such thing as “me time” or “down time” anymore. Not in this season. It’s just “go” time. So when I do have a rare, uninterrupted moment, I want to make the most of it. And it’s at this point in time when I’m faced with the same, nagging dilemma: do I read my Bible now or do I tackle my endless “to-do” list? Do I get my heart or my home in order?

The fact that I even consider prioritising a lifeless basket of washing over time spent with the Living God reveals how warped my priorities can be. I attach a false sense of urgency to the immediate and tangible, where none usually exists.

It doesn’t help that our lives are cluttered by constant distractions. The momentary appeal of Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest is often too irresistible to ignore. And if it’s not our mobile devices alerting us to instant action, we can be sure that the beep of our microwaves, washing machines, kettles, fridges or smoke detectors will!

Family obligations, work and ministry responsibilities, unscheduled  interruptions, emergencies and deadlines often take priority over prayer and Bible reading, simply because they carry our own or others people’s expectations of urgency. “But God can wait”, we justify to ourselves, “He’s not going anywhere. He doesn’t need us NOW like everything else does.”

This constant tension between the urgent and important is what author Charles E. Hummel identified in 1967 as “the tyranny of the urgent”. We have a tendency to let immediate daily demands crowd out the truly important. Our problem lies not with our lack of time but rather, with our priorities. No matter how busy we are, we will always find time to attend to the things we deem important.

So how do we discern the urgent from the important in our lives? We needn’t look any further than the example of Jesus Christ. He never found Himself at the mercy of His own or other people’s schedules (John 7:6; 11:1-7). He was never in a hurry. Jesus ignored what others viewed as urgent and prioritised what was important. He was determined to do His Father’s will.

How did he prepare for a busy day? Mark’s gospel gives us a clue: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mk. 1:35).

Several times in the New Testament, we are reminded of Jesus’ devotion to prayer and meditation on God’s Word (Matt. 4:4; 14:23; Lk. 5:16; Heb. 5:7). This was of primary importance. He waited upon God for guidance and strength to accomplish the Lord’s will for each day, and in doing so, was able to discern the urgent from the important.

Can the same be said of you? If someone recorded your life for a week, what would it reveal about your priorities? Is time with God an afterthought to your crowded schedule, or at the centre of it? Prayer and bible reading seldom happen if we do not plan for them. We must not wait until we “feel” like it. Nor should we let the fear of legalism stop us from pursuing a regular devotional habit. Life is busy. Time is precious. But by far the greatest investment we can make amidst the noise and clutter of our day is to “Be still, and know that the Lord is God” (Ps. 46:10).

First published in the Autumn 2016 Edition 

Madeleine Turner worships at Ashfield Presbyterian Church

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