This morning, I was looking at bills and daydreaming of a day when I won’t have to worry about debt. I’m sure most of us, think about the same thing. This is probably more prevalent today than at any other time in human history, we are wealthier than ever before, and because of this wealth, we are enticed to buy more items to fill the material void created by our comfort. So, as I am sitting here, and pondering different scenarios to pay off the list of bills, I start placing a general priority on the bills on paying bills of most importance to least important. I’m looking at annual percentage rates, and effect of disposable income increase before I commit to a bona fide action plan. It then occurs to me, if we placed as much emphasis on the small details of our own lives as we do on our bills and perhaps health, would we be happier, or better husbands and fathers? Are our priorities a reflection of God’s will in our lives, or do we choose to take the reflective sources of culture to make our earthly lives more bearable and comfortable? Only we know the questions to our own circumstances, and as heavy a question as this is, it is important to answer with full truth. Be courageous enough to admit, we all fall short, but how can we make it better and rectify our wrongs?
I will tell you, in my selfish pursuit of anything, I am constantly challenged with putting the proper priority in context with my life, and I usually need to make things simple for me to be successful. I always tell my kids, and subsequently now, people I run into. We have three priorities in life, we must follow to be intrinsically ordered; first glorify God with everything you do, without God, there is nothing and we are nothing, and if we are nothing so are our achievements or in most cases our lack of achievements. Second, family, without our families we have no base of comparison in life, we have no one to cheer us on in our successes and console us when we fail, and we have no one to teach us a proper understanding of truth as it exists in objectivity. Third, we must be willing to “handle our business” in everything we do. This means, we follow our principles set forth by our Faith and our Church, this third is a contingent of the previous two, because when we follow the first two we invariable embrace the last. Many years ago, when I first picked up the Bible, I read a passage, Mark 12:28-34, and it read “One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, ‘which is the first of all the commandments?’ Jesus replied, ‘The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these’”. This scripture blew me away, its simplicity was put forth to the scribe, but within the walls of its utter ease, was shown to the answer which even in complication presents the truth. I don’t think we find many things in life, which on the surface are what they say they are, but also present a world full of answers within those simplistic phrasing.
Can you think of any time where a comment has been spoken to you, perhaps a platitude, and within the hearing the context of the words, your life in some way is changed? The wisdom in Jesus’s words are unparalleled in their fervor, but also in their approach to answer what seemingly is a question anyone could attempt a more material answer with. In our culture today, people might say, commandments are a little old and outdated, or some others might speak in ambiguities, because they truly don’t have an answer. Whatever anyone might indicate as being important, based within their priority structure, we must not forget, anything less than glorifying God, is just not enough. Therefore, the Ten Commandments are listed in the order they are in, from most important to least, and the very first is “I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt not have any strange gods before Me.”. This isn’t meant to be a rule you can’t break, although you shouldn’t. No, it’s an instruction manual to help you ford the river of life, and reach God who patiently awaits on the other side. God loves you and me so much, his joy is reflective in us, if we are willing to look for him in our hearts, and lovingly follow his instructions to find him. I would consider the commandments more like a map in search of the heart of God, and all we need to do is accept the guidelines and they will lead us to our life of Joy in God.
Ok, so as priorities go, my most important priority is God. What does this mean? Seems a little open, how am I supposed to achieve this priority, unless I stop everything and run around singing his praise every second of the day? Well, I guess anyone could do it, and in truth there are some saints in the past who’ve done this very thing. Though, I’m not telling anyone to do anything they haven’t reconciled within themselves, and I would want anyone considering anything to listen to the silence of their heart for the answer. God will give us the answer, but be bold enough to accept this truth, no matter what it is, and no matter what it may mean for you as your life exists.
What has worked for me, is acknowledging everything I do as a gift from the Almighty, and within this gift, I only want his glory to be realized. If I write a paper, I don’t want anyone to pour on a lavish account of my words, because in truth, my words are helped along by the Holy Spirit, and they are for the Glory of God. Which as a result, I hope my words will bring about conversion, and I pray my words will create a compassionate understanding of the overall love, God wants to give us with every breath we take. Just look at the world around you, and you will see in every detail of everything you look at, God is in the smallest of the small and yet more wonderful than the highest of the high. I was fortunate enough to leave my home one morning this week, and the sunrise was gorgeous, there were oranges, purples, yellows, grays, and pinks. I’m sure there are some scientific folks out there who could give me an explanation of the science which creates these colors, and believe me I would love to know it. Though this is surface deep, when I really considered the sunrise, I saw the creator beginning everything and knowing I would leave my house at exactly the right time, to see his Glory in splendor as it was painted across the sky. How wonderful, how loving, and yet how humbled am I, I was permitted through life to see at least one more beautiful sunrise and gaze upon a splendor which is God. God is in all things, and no matter our belief systems, we can all agree on beauty. Science can tell me why it looks this way, but only beauty can relate my emotion and the correlation of God’s creation as it pertains to my life in this moment only.
So, God is in everything, take a moment to realize and contemplate this paradigm, you will be a more humbled and loving person if you do so. This is what I’m trying to teach my children, and when they ask the obvious question about pain and evil within this beauty, we all need to remember, even in the Glorious presence of God, did the devil insist on turning away, and relegating himself to an existence devoid of love. So too, will people on this Earth, they are willing to acknowledge God, but unwilling to love God, and in doing so are accepting a path of pain, which isn’t necessarily derived of their own pain, but on the joy of the pain of another. Love must be given, and never taken, all God can do is love us into existence and continue, unconditionally, and we choose to do the same or walk away. My kids in their youth have never chosen to walk away, but in their inexperience, have lashed out in an unloving manner at people who care about them, and people who don’t, but it’s my responsibility to teach them the difference and the need to love both parties of offense because we are all beloved in God’s eyes.
My wife and I experience the same struggle, but ours is to attempt to understand one another. We are one, in the covenant with God, and in the existence of this bond, we struggle from time-to-time. Though, our recognition and humility in the sight of God’s Graces poured out over us, is what centers us and our pursuits in life. My wife is a wonderfully strong woman, who in her own way has wisdom which far surpasses my own, but is humble enough to ask my opinion of matters which involve both of us, though I admit she could probably decide on her own best practice. However, in her wisdom she elicits the recognition, we are as one and must function as one. Though, within this recognition we face the second of the priorities, family. As we are the teachers of our kids, and we also, whether we care to admit it or not, are examples to anyone who we are in contact with, our secondary life focus is on our family, nuclear, extended, and all people we meet. Everyone is a part of the body of Christ, and in this understanding, we are all one family (clearly not in the genetic sense, but this doesn’t diminish my recognition of my brothers and sisters in our world).
Family, has numerous functions, and I think the most importantly the family’s role in this world is to unconditionally love one another through a recognition of the love within one another, and the love which is God. I know this is difficult at times, just the other night, I watched two family members who normally get along very well, look at each other with disdain in their eyes, creating an atmosphere of tension so palpable it seemed to weigh everyone down and risk a tremendous upset. Though, they love each other so much, they were willing to talk about their disagreement and walk away from the situation because their anger was still on the surface and nothing good would come from the irritation occurring. As I thought on this some more, later in the evening, I was heartened at the thought of how, even if some people don’t care to admit it, but the devil is there to rip families apart because the family is the single biggest threat to him. The power of love within a family, is paralleled by nothing, which is why the family is so important to our culture. We need to stand up and recognize this, and husbands, this is as much on you as it is anyone else (don’t put yourself in a position of compromise, and don’t say to yourself, “why isn’t she doing anything?”, simple answer, because you are the man, and you need to act like it). I hope my words aren’t too harsh for anyone, but I believe them completely. As a man, I need to be the strong, the compassionate, the soft, the flexible, the rigid, and the understanding all rolled into one. I can’t be afraid to fail, and yet still have the courage to keep trying until the full Glory of God is realized. My wife, whether she really wants to always admit this or not, needs this in me, she is a woman, and as strong as she is, she isn’t and will never be a man (political climate aside, I’m referring to biology), and expecting her to be one is an abhorrent aberration of societal detriment we should stop doing immediately. She is a beautiful woman, and should be treated as such, her strengths are not mine and likewise mine are not hers, which is why God gave man and woman, as a compliment to one another. Stop looking at the times and trying to match subjective nature with reality, come into a reality of truth and be men who are what God intended, and while you’re at it, a beard is always a good way to start.
The last priority I follow is when we handle our business, and this covers all things, but is reliant of the first two priorities to maintain consistency. So, what do I mean by handling one’s business, well, just like it says. Don’t be lazy and allow acacia to enter your life, and don’t do anything which in its context is less than loving. For example, my son, shorter than some, but as wonderful a boy as you would ever meet, and a heart as big as the ocean. He, becomes frustrated by others who are short-sighted and measure him only by his physical stature, creating a sense of diminishment in their eyes, can complicating they matter by lowering his self-esteem. This at one point or another has become an issue, and in certain cases, he’s resulted in anger to solve the problem and lashed out with his quick wit and created an insulting environment for everyone involved. Though, when both his mother and I speak to him, our first question to him always is this, “son, was there any love in what you did?”. His response is usually something like this, “why do I have to love them, when they are hurting my feelings?”. I think this is a fair point of view to take when someone is, especially in this case, willfully ignorant of another’s place in this world and how their actions are perceived. Though, our response is, “because, they need your love more, and your reflective light more than you can know, and until you understand this fully, we need you to consider their feelings before your own.” From, discussions in the past, I’m sure there are plenty of people who would consider our advice to our son as being naïve, but in the same vein if this is the case, is it fair to consider the actions of Paul as being naïve as well? His fervor and proselytization of the truth were more important that any cultural norm, especially in ancient Jerusalem.
The point we try to teach our kids is always one of love, and to always ask the simple but profound question to themselves, “was there any love in my actions?”. If they can get a yes, and if their moral principles have been followed, they are good, and all one can say any further is, “go with God!”.
I’ve heard before, people exclaim, “why is everything so complicated?”, and I’m sure you have probably asked this question at one point or another in your life, and I would say, nothing is complicated if you’re willing to accept truth. When objective truth is involved, it either is or it is not. You either make good choices or you make bad choices, and those choices where you hesitate probably to have more to do with the fulfillment of a selfish need than a true pursuant desire to love. No one’s perfect, and I suffer from this more than I care to admit, though I can see the path more clearly now than ever before in my life, and although there is a pain involved in changing what I do, and I’m glad to make the changes necessary in my life, to glorify God. I just need to be better about it, and become more ubiquitous with my attempts.
I hope you and your family are at a joyous place with God being fully at the center of your lives. If He is not, consider a few things, you’re not alone, and all that is left is for you to ask his guidance, and get ready for the ride. Then accept your own faults, accept your manhood. Make the good choice, make the choice to be a true father and true husband, and to be clear, not the ridiculous notions the movie industry sets forth, our families need our spiritual and faith guidance. They are yearning for it, and they need a strong leader, this is you, so be a man (again, preferably start that beard today). May God bless you and your family!!!
God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!