Grizz likes to use this one line to calm me down when I find myself swirling in circles of overwhelm, with too many choices for too little time:
Keep the main thing the main thing.
That’s all well and fine, I remind him, but what if you don’t know what the main thing is even? How can one be so sure, so clear-headed about something like a main thing? As a deep-feeling perfectionist type, by the time I trudge through the mud of emotions dredged up by my options, I then face a climbing list of pros and cons associated with making the right choice. There’s another word laden with expectations: first main and now right. I don’t even like picking my favorites, it too feels so exclusionary. What is my favorite color? Uh, white. No pink. No wait, lavender. My favorite food? Grits. No, shrimp. Wait, shrimp and grits. With cheese, but not goat cheese – never goat cheese. Favorite movie? Jane Austen’s whatever. Favorite song? Forget it.
To isolate a main thing feels like a whole heap of pressure to me. Does it you? (I’m going to just assume I’m not alone here…)
I think one of the greatest gifts a person can give me is a listening ear and some good questions that help me cut out what is NOT main. Like a sharp knife that cuts off dead branches and directs all the life to the buds, wise counsel can help us let go of what is life-draining so we can better make room for what is life-giving.
But where can one find this wise counsel? Well, that is a good question, and the one I first pose back to you:
Where (or who) do you go to for counsel on what to make main in your life? What is main for you today, may not be what you really want to be main in your life.
I can assure you of this today, maybe this alone, you have elected someone to provide this counsel for you. Whether you are aware of your vote or not you wear their bumper sticker in a most unexpected place: your weekly schedule. Don’t believe me? Take a moment today or tonight to look over your planner, chalkboard, dry-erase board, sketchpad or device that contains all the details on your goings on this week. What and who do you find there? What and who are missing completely? How much (or little) time is going out for each? Not every activity or engagement is of the same weight either. They carry a varying ripple effect when plunked onto the pages of your week. It’s a lot to factor together, and I can easily get lost and reactive to external pressure.
This reactive place is a place of death for me, maybe for you too.
When I become an accountant of time passing, simply tracking commitments that fit the space, I can forget to choose where I actually want my time and energy to go purposefully. If I were managing money but only tracked money spent, not intentionally directing my saving and spending, I’d be in debt before the month is out. So why do I think managing my time and best energies is any different?
The problem though is not simply one of time or money management. Knowledge and skill is good, but not the full answer. The problem, ultimately, is one of governance. I can unknowingly vote for a government over my life that doesn’t bringing freedom and peace to this person, and consequently the people in my province. The government I elect could shape me in ways I didn’t really intend. Before I know it, I’m spending my precious time in ways that create waste in my life. When I fail to vote for who rules my life because I have neglected my schedule, I am soon ruled by a tyranny of demands and expectations that have nothing to do with who I want to become.
I graduated with a Bachelors in Government and International Studies. My classes consisted of heated discussion over American presidents, foreign policies and decisions in war times. I loved the humanity of it all. We studied real people in a real world with real problems, and sometimes they made really poor decisions in moments of weakness. I needed these stories while I was in college because I made some of my own really poor decisions! One class, Comparative Government, lined up systems of governance around the globe and spanning human history against each other, hence comparative. The fundamental goal was to form an appreciation for the complexity of establishing and sustaining various regimes. We learned how not every governmental system serves to promote freedom and peace for its people, especially because of the fragile and corrupt human natures operating in governments. This is no less true of our lives on a micro level as well. Whoever is in charge of our weekly schedule, our priorities, our commitments, our quiet, our noise, is shaping who we are becoming, for better or for worse.
So whether you want to think of it as a government, a grid, a worldview, a philosophy or mantra for life, choosing first how you are going to filter your seemingly endless options is critical to identifying your main things.
There are many good choices concerning how we should apportion our time. I have chosen, like many governmental systems on a macro level, to use the ancient wisdom of God’s Word to guide me in choosing what is wise to make main in my life. You may choose another form of government, I respect that. Just be aware of your vote, and own your days.
My trust in God’s governance over me comes from Psalm 119:105, and 130:
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” and “the entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.”
The overwhelming choices of our generation often leave me stunned and simple-minded, lacking understanding for what should be my main things. What hope though that God’s Word can help. It can cut out what is NOT main, which can be of greatest value indeed!
To set priorities is to state what is important to you. Who and what will take irreplaceable space from your life this week?
Let’s look together at God’s Word this month, and what others have learned by applying His wisdom to their main thing missions. Let’s vote for how our lives are governed, and shape our weeks with intention.
I need this. I need this regularly too. If this is you, welcome friend, you are not alone!