Lately I have been struggling with sorting out my priorities. The final third of the year is always a challenge, moving from the summer into a very busy “program” time of the year, but this year seems more difficult than usual. My task list has at least 30 items in the “urgent and important” box, while my calendar only includes time for about 10 of them – and progress on all of them feels like I am wading through molasses!
I still begin and end my days with “Jesus time”, but there are days when I cut it short. My cardiologist has suggested I do a few things differently, but they do not fit into my plan at this time. While family remains a priority, I feel as though my energy level at those times is often not what it should be while I am with them. And then there are all of the different ministry priorities to juggle – staff … elderly … youth … outreach … programs … individuals … current needs … future planning … baptisms … weddings … Last week I was at a 3-day training event and there is another one next week, and this week in-between includes two baptisms, a funeral, and a wedding!
And the crazy thing is that I know that I am not alone in this. Almost everyone I talk to is in a very similar boat. Life’s demands are either increasing or speeding up, or both. And retirees are still saying, “I don’t know how I ever had time to work!” It is my impression that recovery from the “pandemic shut-down” is going to take longer than the shut-down itself, yet every day it drags on we become more impatient for things to return to normal.
I hear many people ask, “Where is God in all of this?” and I find myself asking the same question – though I realize this question can be asked from a couple different angles. One is that people feel as though God has stepped away from us. To you I offer a prayer that came to me yesterday in a morning devotion from my cousin: “Heavenly Father, in times when I feel distant from You, help me go back to where I first heard Your voice.” My angle is more upon centering my priorities around him … which generally means more time with him rather than cutting that time short.
While I did not take the time to look it up, I have always liked a quote that I attribute to Luther where he says that on particularly busy days, he would start the day with a double measure of his “Jesus time” in order to make the day go better. I also think of the friend I mentioned last week who sets aside a full day for this every 12 weeks. A hymn by Waldenburg (LSB 869) puts it this way – “With the Lord begin your task; Jesus will direct it. For his aid and counsel ask; Jesus will perfect it. Every morn with Jesus rise, and when day is ended, in his name then close your eyes; be to him commended.” Wednesday morning I found that just writing the above paragraphs before heading out on calls gave me a peace that blessed the entire day.
I don’t know about you, but I find I need to keep reading – over and over again – these familiar and encouraging words of St. Paul, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard you hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4.4-9)
A song from Maranatha Music that we often sing on Monday nights (Vespers, not Tony’s Sing-along) reminds me that “In this time, God makes all things beautiful in his time. Lord please show me every day as you’re teaching me your way that you do just as you say in your time.” I may mess up my priorities. I may be bogged down and feel overwhelmed, but God in his word – which is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3.16) – keeps doing those very things in me … showing me his priorities … challenging me when I get off track … then gently bringing me back … providing me with new growth … so that I someday might be “complete, equipped for every good work.”
And, you know, if you give him half a chance, I believe he will do the same in you … even if the progress seems to be slower than molasses in the wintertime!