How to Live a Life That Reflects What Matters Most
When I was first married, my husband and I took a class at church that was designed to help teach couples how to manage their money according to what the Bible says about finances. During the class, the instructor made a statement I've never forgotten. He asserted that if you really want to know what someone’s priorities are—what matters most to them in life—then you simply need to look at their checkbook.
Today people rarely use checkbooks anymore. (Well, I still do occasionally, writing about one check every 6 weeks to the woman who cuts my hair, since she isn’t set up to take debit cards.) However, I wonder if it is just our bank accounts, auto-pays, or debit card trails today that reveal if we are living in a way that reflects what matters most to us. I think there is another place that gives us a snapshot of what our priorities really are: our day planner or our calendar app on our phone. Let me explain.
If someone were to ask you what your priorities were—in order—what would you say? Would you rattle them off, ranking them as you did, insisting that God is first, your family comes next, and then your work, (whether outside career or full-time mom) followed by other church or community responsibilities and finally any hobbies? However, here's the catch: does the way you spend your time actually line up with what you say your priorities are?
A little over a decade ago, I was feeling like my priorities were all out of whack. While I would have claimed that they stacked up in a certain order, the reality of how—and even where—I spent my time played out very differently. It was then that I did the following:
I wrote out a numbered list of what I felt were my priorities.
God was number one. My husband was next. My children were third. My extended family was next, followed by my outside commitments at church, school, etc… (At this time I was a stay-at-home mom so I didn’t have employment to list.)
Then, for about a two-week span, I kept a log of how much time I spent each day doing various things: taking care of the kids, working around the house, talking/texting on the phone, connecting with my husband for more than a quick update of who needed to be where each night, spending time with extended family members, hanging out with friends, and finally time devoted to reading or studying my Bible and praying. As I logged in my minutes and hours, I also jotted down the number priority it fell under.
Of course, not everything was cut-and-dry. If I spent time cleaning the house and doing laundry, it was for both my number two and number three priorities, even though I wasn't physically present with them. And, in a way, it was also for God, since when I work in my home and serve my family, I am also serving the Lord. Colossians 3:23 states, “Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people…” (CSB)
Now, lest you think I’m some stuck-in-the-1950’s wife who thinks housework is only meant for the mom in the family, let me clue you in to two little beliefs I firmly hold. First, if a child can work a cell phone, they can run a washing machine. I made it my goal to work myself out of that never-ending household job. And it worked! My kids were doing all their own laundry by the age of 12. And the second belief I hold dear? I love a man with dishpan hands. Enough said. (Thankfully, my husband doesn’t mind helping us all keep up on thedishes.)
When the two weeks was over, I was in shock. Often, I was letting a priority far down my list—say a friend, who was a number eight—take precedence over (and time away from) my kids, who were a number three. I had a few friends going through difficulties in life and I just couldn’t bring myself to ignore their calls. However, God showed me that my always picking up the phone was not only preventing me from living my priorities, it was also preventing my friends from running to Jesus, the person to whom they should have headed to first. Instead, they knew they could call me and I would stop what I was doing and try to help them process any new developments in their sticky situations. Looking back, I wish I would have functioned as a friend with an occasional listening ear rather than a constant counselor who let these constant phone calls get out of control.
Since that time, I have shared this little evaluation exercise with hundreds of women as I speak. Many have told me how eye-opening it has been. One even said she discovered, as she looked over her results, that she was spending more time each day just clicking around on Facebook than she was with both God, her school-aged daughter, and her husband combined.
This self-assessment exercise is not an exact science. Many moms work a full-time job. Some even must hold down two jobs just to make ends meet. Also, you can’t just spend six hours a day reading your Bible and praying and not get your tasks at home and/or work done. With this in mind, it is helpful to think through not just the time spent, but the priority placed on each activity time-wise. Do you check you phone first thing in the morning before you open your Bible? Do you spend an hour-and-a-half scouring Pinterest for gourmet recipes and then quick try to whip up a sub-standard meal for your family like “Helper”? You know, because you didn’t even remember to purchase any hamburger, so all you served that night was the helper!
Take some time this week to get alone with God and pray about how you spend your time—especially your free time. Then, if you are brave and ready for a reality check, take the challenge to write a numbered list of your priorities and also document how you spend your time over a week or two just to discover if these two things match.
If they do not, don’t despair. Instead, ask God to give you the resolve to re-order your days, the courage to realign your priorities, and the ability to live in a way that reflects what matters most.
This may mean resigning from a volunteer position. It might mean putting your phone in the “do not disturb” mode, allowing calls only from your family members and other crucial people whom you have put on your "favorites" list. It might mean asking a friend to hold you accountable, texting you each evening to ask if you are poking around on Pinterest or intentionally connecting with your kiddos. It might mean saying no to watching a favorite TV program and instead saying yes to taking a walk around the block with your husband. (Then he'll be more apt to help with the dishes at your place if you do!)
Trust that God will help you to wipe the slate of your schedule completely clean. And then, place back on it only what you firmly believe he has called you to do. When you do, you’ll be living your priorities out in order, now reexamined, rearranged and most importantly regret-free.
Need some help focusing on what matters most? Join us for a free study of Philippians in the First 5 App, created by Proverbs 31 Ministries, designed to help you spend the first 5 minutes every day reading and understanding the Bible. For two weeks starting on Monday, June 18, we'll study how Paul’s letter to the Philippians teaches us to find contentment and joy in the midst of our circumstances, navigate relational conflict, and overcome worry anxiety by prioritizing what matters most – Jesus. Find out more HERE.
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