There are many topics that I am passionate about, and there are many of those topics that I have lots of thoughts/experience with. These topics will come to my head from time to time, but generally they pass after a day or so, but recently I have not been able to shake this particular subject: priorities. Generally this word does not conjure up many great emotions. Often times people use phrases like “Get your priorities straight” or “I am going to try to figure out where my priorities lie.” When the word ‘priorities’ is used, it is most often in the context of a sharp rebuttal, or a deep reflection on one’s values. Both of these can be painful times. Certainly these have been painful for me, but nonetheless I have been thinking about the word, and have come to a realization that is clear and obvious, and yet offensive at the same time. The realization is that the way we live our lives is a direct indication of our priorities. This does not sound offensive, does it? It sounds pretty straight forward, until we examine where we spend our time, or worse, someone else examines where we spend our time and tells us about it. Still not convinced? Let us follow a few examples.
This first example is fairly ridiculous (although I do have friends who play this game, and so to those of you, I am sorry, I do appreciate you,) but it gets a point across well. How many of us have attended a Dungeons and Dragons convention within the last year? How about within the last decade? How many readers have any desire at all to attend one? My guess is that most of my readers have none at all. Why? There is not interest in it among the general population (sorry fans of Dungeons and Dragons.) This example is pretty obvious, and most of us do not relate to it, but what about church? There is likely to be more people who will relate to this. Out of my readers, there will be two groups: those who identify themselves as Christians and those who do not. If you find yourself in the latter group, then go ahead and move on to the next paragraph. Church is an odd subject among Christians in North America, especially Christians from my generation. It is by far one of the easiest of commitments to blow off. So much so that I do not think it is much of a priority at all to us. This is one of the priorities in my life that got me thinking about the subject in the first place. My attendance of church in the past year has been spotty to say the least. Why? I do not enjoy it like I used to. I find all sorts of excuses not to go, thankfully in the last few months I have come to enjoy church again, but before this I would not have given a second thought to attending bed-side baptist. There are others in my life that unashamedly tell me that they do not go to church because they work on Sundays. I understand that work is hard to reschedule, but if we have classes on a certain day, or even different activities that we really enjoy at a particular time then most of us find a way to make sure we are not working then. Why? Because school is a priority. Extra-curricular activities are a priority. Church, for so many of us, is not a priority, and I know, there are exceptions to this rule, but so many churches offer evening or Saturday services for people like police officers, doctors, nurses and people who need to fill a position on Sundays. For most people however, we work jobs that can be worked another time, and we live in North America, if we go to our employers saying that we need a certain day off because of our religion, then we will most likely get that day off. Again, so many of us do not go to church because it is not high on our priority list, it is hard to get around this.
What about something that applies to more of us? How many of us return the question of “How are you doing?” when we are asked in passing a colleague, friend or acquaintance? Some of us do, some do not. For those who do not, there can be a few reasons. Either we are in a hurry to get somewhere, we are shy and awkward, or we really do not care and do not want to know about how that person is doing. In all of these cases, the person who is inquiring about our life is not seen as a priority, or at least not a big one. The reality is that if we prioritized that person we would stop for a moment and ask how they are doing, returning the kind gesture that he/she extended to us. Do our lives have to be so full that we cannot stop to talk to the people placed in our lives? Are we so concerned about our insecurities that we cannot consider trying to push beyond them and ask how someone else is doing?
What about simple things like doing the dishes after meals? Calling up friends that do not live near us? Calling our parents from time to time? The reality is that for most of us, our priorities lie in things like Facebook, Instagram, TV shows or movies, sports, clothes, schoolwork or even our significant other (although there is also the far too common opposite case of seeing our significant other as super low on our list of priorities, or they are not a priority at all.) So what are your priorities? Some of them will be very obvious, and others may be hidden to us and will require those who are close to us to point them out. A simple rule to determining what my priorities are is observing how I spend my time and what I spend time thinking about. Time and how we use it is the ultimate test for priorities. I can tell you right now that watching movies is NOT a large priority in my life because I rarely watch them and I rarely think about watching them. I can also tell you that Facebook IS a major priority in my life. Facebook was such a priority that I would check it at least once an hour, I would keep my phone by my bed so that I could hear when I would get notifications and quickly check them, I would spend hours scrolling through my news feed while my homework sat to the side. The sad reality is that I am far from alone in regards to this priority.
So what is the point of all this? Should we feel guilty? Maybe. Should we change priorities? Probably. Are there good priorities in our lives? Yes. The point of all that I have written is to point us towards self-reflection. It is my desire that we would reflect on the things we spend out time on and ask ourselves if they are priorities worth having. So many of our priorities are self-seeking, even a majority of them are without us even realizing it. So what if we were really honest with ourselves and ask some tough questions? I did. A few days ago I asked if Facebook was truly a good use of my time. For some it is, because they are able to manage their time well on Facebook, but for me, it had become an addiction. As a result I was zoned out for so much of my day, people would try to talk to me and I would not realize that they were even there, assignments would be done late, and time would be wasted. So I decided to cut Facebook out of my life until I can manage to break free from the addiction, and use the time I now have to reflect on my priorities and what I really want to ultimately prioritize.
I am certainly not asking that we all go to the extreme that I went to. Some of us may need to remind ourselves to make a certain someone a stronger priority by simply asking them about their day after work and giving them a hug, and some of us may need to set our alarms a half an hour early so that we make sure the priority of being on time for work is recognized. Whatever the case may be, we all have areas in our lives that need changing, and it is my prayer that as we all continue on into 2016 we would examine our priorities and adjust accordingly.