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How Are Your Priorities?

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One of the things that we learn as we are growing up is how to prioritize our responsibilities and all of the other ways we spend our time. Beginning as a child, we learn to follow a schedule from school and extracurricular activities, and even grow that understanding as we enter into the job market, start a family, and settle into midlife and beyond. Most people are given a general understanding and urgency around certain aspects of our days, and we refine this understanding though experience and trial and error.

Like many people over the age of 35, I grew up watching PBS shows as part of this very education. One such show was called Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, and it featured a man named Fred Rogers – an ordained Presbyterian minister and all-around unbelievably nice guy who welcomed me as his "neighbor." As a child, I didn’t have the capacity to appreciate the message he sent with his show, or how that message stood in such contrast to every single other thing the entertainment industry was feeding into my young impressionable brain. However, Mr. Rogers taught me the value of communication, forbearance, forgiveness, kindness, gentleness, acceptance, and togetherness, just to name a few.

Much to my surprise, Mr. Rogers has again taught me another paradigm-shifting ideal now as I am in my middle years. I was watching a documentary about the life and exploits of Mr. Rogers very recently, marveling at how he had touched the lives of so many – seemingly every single person he came in contact with. But what stuck with me – and still sticks with me, causing somewhat of a crisis of direction in my own life was this: His long-time (actual) neighbor quoted him as saying “Deep and simple is always better than shallow and complicated.”

Read that again - “Deep and simple is always better than shallow and complicated.”

I spent a week camping with my family almost immediately following the viewing of this documentary. During one of the days when we were spending leisure time down on the lakeshore, I got to wondering. Why do we camp as a break or vacation from life? In reality, camping is far more work than simply living with the conveniences in everyday life – why do I choose to work more as a means of rest? It occurs to me that when you are camping, or on any kind of vacation, your priorities are far different than the “everyday and the mundane” as we so often sing in our worship. It occurred to me that the truth is in that quote from Mr. Rogers; my priorities when camping are basic necessities – food, drink, lodging, warmth, etc. Deep and simple, in other words. As we climbed the mountain, the shallow and complicated fell away.

Do I live a life that at all reflects deep and simple? Am I at my very core attending to the simple – the things that matter – with the same enthusiasm and urgency that I ascribe to the shallow and complicated? How many actions do I take in a day that contribute to this temporal world instead of the eternal kingdom? And, perhaps most importantly, why am I ok with this imbalance?

I recall my days playing high school sports – days where due to my team’s inability to give the coach what he demanded turned into what his staff called “Attitude Adjustment Days.” During those days nobody was happy. Yet even with those memories, it has become clear to me that I once again need an attitude adjustment.

Maybe you need one as well. Ask yourself – when was the last time you went through a period in life where you can truthfully say that you lived every part of your life with Christ as the center? What are you doing today for eternity to come? How are you ascribing value to the various things which fill your day, and how ought you be valuing these things?

The Bible is clear in black and white (or red, depending on your Bible) exactly what our priorities are:

“And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'” Matthew 28:18-20

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Deuteronomy 6:5

It seems pretty obvious – our two main priorities are to love God, and make disciples. Deep and simple.

Does your daily schedule reflect these two priorities at all, let alone place them at the top? Or, like me, are you mired in the shallow and complicated?

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