Here we are at week 3 in our Elephant in the Pew Series. Over the last two weeks, we have talked about: Why bad things happen to good people, especially the innocents, and how God’s Grace is a true gift in our lives.
This week’s topic asks us to stop and think about the way we prioritize our lives and where God and our faith fits in them. So, let’s start by thinking about this:
What are your daily/regular tasks?
Do you bring God into your everyday life/routine?
If you were asked to choose, what would be your first priority?
Does it/do they always come first?
Most likely not. We might like to think it is that way, but reality tell us that our priorities can change as life changes – especially when there is a crisis, illness or emergency.
I want you to honestly think about this next question:
Where does God fit into your life - What # would you give God on your list of priorities?
Why does God fit below family – kids/spouse, even friends, etc.?
In our Matthew text Jesus tells us that God alone must come first in our lives. Yet, we know that there are very few people, if any, in the world who can claim that they always – always put God first.
Laine sent me this topic/question to me last year right after our Elephant series. She worded it like this: “I can’t claim that I love God more than my family. Shouldn’t God come first? The hierarchy for me is family and close friends, then God, then everything else. I’m sure I’m probably not the only one that feels this way. How should we navigate those feelings?”
This is a big question for each of us. It hits right to “How do we live faithful lives in the midst of our crazy busy schedules and world?” I think we can all relate to this, and as we just mentioned, for each of us, God doesn’t get the top slot in our priorities – BUT God does usually get within the top 5.
The moment I read Laine’s questions in her e-mail, the “safety speech” that you hear a flight attendant give popped into my mind – specifically the part about the oxygen masks. I feel it is a critical rule of thumb for us when we are looking to figure out where God should fit in our lives. It goes something like this:
In the event that cabin pressure changes and your oxygen mask drops from the compartment above you, please put on your oxygen mask before helping the person sitting next to you.
This seems totally counter-intuitive for a parent and most people who are “helpers,” like I am. How many of you would follow the instructions as given and help yourself before helping another more vulnerable person sitting next to or year you?
Why would you want to make sure you take care of your own need before you helped someone else - even your own child?
In the case of the oxygen mask, it’s pretty obvious when you really think about it – you can’t help anyone else if you can’t breathe.
Why should we consider the need to put God before even our children/spouse/partner?
Again, the answer seems simple again – yet is so difficult for us in practice: Without taking time to refresh and renew ourselves, we cannot be at full energy to help others. If all you ever do is GIVE to others and put others first, then what happens to you? You become empty. Even Jesus took time apart to pray and rest before he dove back into meeting the needs of the people around him.
So, where, when do you go to be replenished? Who gives to you?
Just think how much easier your days and life would be if you spent a few minutes a day being replenished by God and inviting God into your life – into your concerns, fears, disagreements, moments of hurt – rather than going it alone and focusing on solely meeting others’ needs.
This quote by St. Francis de Sales is a great reminder for all of us: Everyone needs at least 30 minutes a day in prayer, unless you are busy – then you need 1 hour.
I know that some of you are thinking that “I’m too busy to give God that much of my time.” I get it – really, I do. Sometimes I find myself falling into that mentality – the type A: I’ve got too much to do, I’m the only one who can do it, and it must get done as quickly as possible – so I put my head down and push through the tasks until the list is cleared. Yet, because I don’t take time for myself, it’s harder than it has to be. I find myself feeling more stressed, anxious, and tired. I get cranky, I’m not truly able to be fully present to others, and I often end up run down and/or sick at the end of the list.
So, over the last few years, I have been intentionally carving out time for “self-care” and time to spend with God. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time, or needs to be taken all at once. I find that spreading out my connection with God throughout the day helps a lot. I’ve learned to keep it simple.
What does God offer us that could really help us get through our daily challenges – of being a parent, being a spouse/partner, employee or boss, etc.?
My friends, the reality is that God is with us every second of every day. It’s is we who push God away or down in our lives believing that we can go it alone. Putting God first is not difficult. It may even be the easiest thing we ever do. Pushing God away and going it alone is the most difficult thing we do.
Just like relearning how to breathe properly, putting God first must be a conscious, intentional, and mindful act in the beginning. With practice, it will quickly become an unconscious act as we come to accept that God is and always will be with us.
We will begin to notice more quickly when we don’t invite God in – when we try to go it without breathing in God’s life-giving spirit and energy properly. When we try to rely on our own limited power and authority rather than letting God’s limitless resources take the lead.
So, my friends…..make God a habit. Start intentionally putting God first. Invite God into your everyday and immerse yourself in the renewed, refreshed life that only God can give you, and allow yourself to become the best person, parent, spouse/partner, friend, boss, employee, beloved child of God you were created to be.
May it be so….. AMEN