A couple of months ago we bought a house. The lady who lived in this house before us had been there for around 60 years. She was well known for her immaculate yard of exotic plants and colorful flower beds.
So when we took residence the question everyone had is whether we were prepared to take on this duty of maintaining such a beautiful landscape. The answer we gave seemed to shock everyone as we responded in the negative, that we were actually planning to mow most of it over and plant a couple of vegetable gardens instead.
Why would we do such a thing? Well, because of the season of life we are in. Where are our priorities? Surely they did not include maintaining a floral paradise. We are in our thirties with four kids. The lady who moved out was near 80. These are two completely different seasons of life! She had the free time for yard work, we have mouths to feed (thus the (food) gardens).
Priorities vs Dreams
In our busy lives, we should make sure we have our current priorities in order. This is a task we should revisit regularly by first, determining our priorities and second, pursuing them intentionally.
We all have priorities. We also have dreams and goals. Depending on the season of life you are in, you may not be able to even consider your “dreams” due to your priorities. It may be that after certain priorities die down, then you can focus on the things you currently have not been able to.
Here is an example: A husband/father of 3 works at a local factory. He is bringing in the bare minimum to keep the family going. His wife is scrapping together meals for this kids and dreaming about her plans to decorate the living room one day. On the side, the husband is an artist/painter and displays his passionate murals at the community market on the weekend. At this market he makes no profit, just publicity, hoping his name gets out there and he can go full time with it someday.
So let’s evaluate this: He is bringing in the bare minimum his family can comfortably live on. He assures his wife he is doing everything he can do. On the weekends, his passion is not bringing in anything. It is a hobby. While I would never discourage anyone to give up their passions, I wonder if this may not be a good season in his life to put such an effort into something that is not an present priority, i.e. supporting his family.
Perhaps he should lighten up on the painting for a pre-determined period of time (maybe a year) and focus on picking up some extra hours, taking a side job, or even pursuing a different job elsewhere that pays more.
Here is another example, one within my own life: I at one point got serious into mountain biking; “riding the singletrack.” Our first child had just arrived and I was trying to fit in a ride after work every other day. I attempted to juggle this hobby, the family, along with other duties and it just did not work. It became a significant burden on my wife and it was time lost with my new daughter, both of which are a greater priority.
Eventually, I had to face the fact that this dedication to riding did not fit in our season of life. The day will come when I can pick this back up more often, perhaps when my kids are old enough to join me or perhaps when they are moved out. Bikes will always be here, my kids will not.
What are priorities
So what exactly are priorities? They are simply things that are regarded more important than others. It is crucial to remember that we cannot be intentional about everything all at once. There are always things (and people) that are more important to us than others.
It is when we are intentional about our highest priorities that we actually get the right stuff done with the most benefit.
Everyone should take a little time and list out their current priorities. Here are some things to consider:
- What are the more immediate obligations? Be specific. Do not write “family,” but instead wife, kids, etc. Do not write “my health,” but instead write exercise, healthy eating, etc.
- It may help to evaluate your daily schedule within the past month or so of your life. You could ask questions such as: What is the environment like when I pull into my driveway after work? Am I greeted by a horde of little children or is it simply my wife setting out two glasses of wine for our usual dinner together?
- You can ask your spouse if his/her needs are met, including financial and practical needs.
- Ask yourself if you perhaps have too much “stuff” and if this stuff is causing you to be ineffective and unproductive. Could you be more intentional without it?
- Ask yourself if the tasks you are engaged in are beneficial. What is the investment? Children are a great investment, thus a high priority. Flowers are not. You will not give an account to Jesus one day based on the health of your begonias, but you will on the faithfulness of raising godly children, loving your wife, etc.
In the story told above of our new house, we were able to avoid the timely burden of purposeless landscaping by having our priorities predetermined and recognizing that this activity was not beneficial in our current season of life.
Again I am not saying flowers or bad or that dreams and goals are meaningless. I am simply saying that we go through different seasons of life in which certain duties are more important than others. Determining which of these are more important will help us become more intentional and avoid drift.
So be faithful in the chapter of life you are in. Others chapters and seasons will come with different potentials, possibilities, and of course, priorities. At that point, revisit and revise.
So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom (Psalm 90:12)
Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might (Ecc. 9:10)
“Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live” (Jonathan Edwards)