That was just over a year ago, and after looking back, it seemed a good idea to examine where my priorities are today. After a lot of time, hard work, and praying I feel that currently my priorities are:
1. God, 2. Family, 3. Friends, 4. Me, 5. Money
It's about time! It took a while, but I finally feel my priorities are getting to where I want and need them to be. Now, that doesn't mean I have reached any plateau of perfection, and I realize I cannot get too comfortable, lest I could easily slip back into my old selfish ways. But I'm happy to report that I honestly feel I am doing much better than I was a year ago.
So what happened? Why the change of heart? Well, as I said, it took a lot of hard work and prayer to get to where I am today. There are a couple of things that I feel helped me in my quest to straighten out my priorities, and I would like to share them with you.
This was the big one. I fully realize, as should every Christian, that we simply do not possess the strength or moral fortitude to effect a change in our lives without help from God. He alone can change us into a new person. No matter how badly we want to change, without Him, we will inevitably slip back into our old patterns and habits. However, when we possess a true desire to change, God will fill us with the Holy Spirit, which will allow us to achieve permanent change.
As a certain addiction recovery program is famous for saying, "The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem". While I personally do not agree with everything that particular organization has to say, I do agree strongly with that particular statement. How can we change what we don't recognize as a problem? We must first evaluate ourselves and realize our imperfections if we ever hope to overcome any of them. This brings me to my third point:
3. The List, Part I
A while back, I started a list that outlined my priorities in life. I was very specific, and included any responsibility, hobby, or vice that I could think of in which I participated at the time. I used a spreadsheet (although pen and paper would have worked just as well), and arranged each of the items in the order in which I felt I was acting as if they were priorities in my life. That is to say, I didn't put them in the order in which I felt they were most important to me, I put them in order according to how much time and energy I was investing in each item. It was, for me, a very eye-opening experience. As a child of the digital age, I grew up during the 70's and 80's, and one of my main vices has always been video games. It's not that I think video games are necessarily bad (not all of them, anyway!), but the amount of time I was spending each week playing video games was definitely overkill. When I saw 'video games' near the top of my list, I didn't like it being up there at all! So, I resolved to myself to put down the controller and do something more productive with much of the time I would have otherwise spent racing sports cars, or blowing up bad guys, which didn't really do anything for anyone once the game was over. Again, I'm not coming down on those who wish to play video games. In moderation, they can be fun and relaxing. It's all about how you prioritize the activity. Once I had resolved to cut back on the gaming, I prayed about it. Not just once, but daily, and not just until I felt I had changed, but even now, I thank God for allowing me to step back a bit from an activity that was eating up too much of my free time, which I am now able to use more productively.
4. The List, Part II
The second column of my list was dedicated to outlining the same priorities in the first column, but this time they were arranged in the order in which I felt they should be for me to be the person I want to be and, more importantly, the person I feel God wants me to be. I revisit this list often and reorder the 'current' side to reflect where I am at the time. Not too often, however, as I feel real change takes time, and updating the list daily would not be a true indication of my current habits and actions. Reevaluating every two or three weeks seems to work pretty good for me, for others it might work better to update more or less frequently. This is a very personal matter, and each person must decide what works best for him or herself.
The Bottom Line
Have I achieved a perfect order of priorities yet? Nope! But I'm a lot closer than I was when I started. I'm not a perfect person, and I know for a fact that I never will be. They key for me is to keep trying. God works with each of us every day in so many ways, and true change is possible if we place our faith in Him, and not in ourselves. We've all heard people say, "Believe in yourself and you can achieve". It would be better, however if we were to say, "Believe in God, and what He can accomplish through you, and you can achieve anything!"
This passage really hit home for me. I continually feel compelled to spread the wonderful news of God’s love, but often times I find myself staying too focused on my own shortcomings to effectively serve Him. How do I face my own sins and allow myself the forgiveness that God gives freely? Sometimes I can’t help but wonder about the path He has placed me on, and if I’m sticking to it. The logical, rational side of me (the part that doesn’t really have a clue) wonders if it’s possible to deceive myself into believing I’m working for His glory, all the while holding dear to my own personal feelings of what is the “right way” to do things. And how do I keep a watchful eye over my own intentions without calling His plan into question? This is here just to let you know that even someone trying their best to be a faithful servant to I Am, can have the same doubts and fears as someone who is but one minute old in the family of Christ. I am sure others must have times when they wonder about their calling as well, feeling totally inadequate to be a “representative” of the Lord in the world’s eyes. It is this time when servants of the Lord are pushed closer to the flock, more able to clearly see things as others do and more able to relate to those who may not follow the His daily plan with the same vigor that they do. As one of these people I will tell you that, for me personally, He usually responds to these times of wonder quickly and with great enthusiasm, leaving no question to the extent of His power and love, reinforcing my faith time and time again. If that’s not God’s plan at work, I don’t know what is! This time also serves to remind us all that without God we are nothing but miserable sinners, but BECAUSE of Him, and His plan of eternal salvation, we are elevated beyond our sin, even from the moment we confess it and our belief in His son, Jesus Christ. Why does God use the smallest man for the largest battle? Because He can.