By Kimberly Schluterman
Well, it’s official: I’m married! My gracious editor, Donna Lee Schillinger, gave me a two-month hiatus from this column so that I could prepare for my wedding and enjoy the honeymoon and first weeks of marriage. First, I should say that I love marriage! What a joy it is. Second, I’ll say that that isn’t what I want to talk about.
Instead I want to talk about my carpet. I’ve been trying to pick out a carpet for our living room, and curtains for the windows. I tried to do both of those things before we moved into the house, but all I had to go on were pictures because it was still being lived in. In retrospect, what I should have been focused on was preparing for my wedding! I’ve been living in this house for two months, and I realize that I’m just now getting an idea of what I want for both the rug and the curtains. Further, it occurred to me that I should pick the rug first, and then match the curtains to it. Curtains are easier to change than the rug, and they may be changed seasonally; but if I match the rug to the curtains and it doesn’t turn out just right, I’d be in trouble. See?
Ecclesiastes 3 tells us that there is a time for everything. In fact, woven throughout scriptures is the idea that we are to do things in a proper order. In this case: Buy the house. Live in the house. Pick a rug. Think about curtains… You get the idea.
In life in general, we should do things in the right order. From the time you’re about eight, everyone wants you to decide what you’re going to do with your life. Are you going to be a fire-fighter? An economist? Musician? Decide, decide now! You need to know what classes to take, which electives and extra-curriculars to participate in. But it occurs to me that that isn’t the right order at all, evidenced by how many kids change their major halfway through college. Why do we put so much pressure on kids to make a decision that won’t be relevant until much later and will probably change a dozen times anyway? And unless you get to go to college for free (scholarships, parents work at the school, etc.), why push to go to college when you’re 18 if you don’t know yet if that’s really right for you? Wouldn’t it make more sense to focus in our late adolescence on mental health, physical health and becoming a lady who reflects her Father, and decide what we’ll do with our life later?
Here are some more examples of how “do in the right order” comes into play. Recently, we had some dinner guests and I made roast beef. I had to clean the house and make dinner. Since the beef would take several hours in the crock pot, I started it around 2:00. Then I cleaned from about 2:15 until about 5:00, at which time I got in the shower and cleaned up. By the time they arrived, the roast was done (and so very yummy) and both my house and I were clean. But what if I had cleaned the house before I started the roast? No dinner. That’s an easy example.
Here’s another easy example: Get married, and then have sex. Do in the right order! Get married, and then live together. God has a set order of things, and we should do in that order.
There’s a logical order to managing finances too. My company has a 401k that will match my contributions, up to a certain percentage. Every penny that my company matches is free money – like a pay raise. However, if I didn’t have enough money in the bank to pay my bills today, where would be the wisdom in saving for 40 years from now? How will it hurt my credit if I default on payments now? How will a bad credit score affect my future? I always believe in saving, but I also believe that we should not store for ourselves treasures that can be destroyed (by a bad economy). Before we save for the future, we need to ensure we have met our financial obligations for today, and are not forsaking tithes and offerings. Do in the right order. It would be “meaningless, meaningless” to retire rich after living 90 percent of our lives with financial stress.
Let’s not get carried away with ordering things, though. We don’t need to make a list of everything we do in our day and number it. Whether I microwave the pizza or the corn first makes little difference to me or to God (as far as I know). Whether I put my left shoe on first or my right probably doesn’t have eternal consequence. But I do recommend putting socks on before shoes, and shoes on before running a marathon.
It really boils down to priorities. My priorities may not be the same as yours. That’s fine! God has not been specific in His Word about how to prioritize each aspect of our lives. Is education more important than starting a career? Is making money more important than having a job you love? Is having a job you love more important than having an active social life? Is spending time with your friends more important than spending time with your family? Somewhere there is a balance, and you can evaluate your life and add these concepts into your own Project Balance.
Very important though: no conversation on priorities would be complete without acknowledging that our priority numero uno is non-negotiable, if we want to please God. Jesus said,
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind;” and “Love your neighbor as yourself,” in one way or another in three of the four gospels. Set your priorities straight, and then live your life in the order that God intended.