Put God first



“How we spend our days, after all, is how we spend our life.” (Annie Dillard)

Half the year is over. The speed at which time passes is frightening. It makes me reflect on the above quote and challenges me to examine exactly that: How do I spend my days? I decided to take paper and pencil, and write down the actions of one 24 hours. This is my list in no particular order:

  • Exercise
  • Clean
  • Water plants and garden
  • Attend Mass and pray the rosary
  • Visit family
  • Check phone, emails, etc.
  • Cook supper
  • Read and relax
  • Sleep

My day was full. That examination also segued into a book I am currently reading: “Walking with Purpose: Seven Priorities That Make Life Work,” by Lisa Brenninkmeyer. The author, a Catholic mother of seven and founder of the organization Walking with Purpose, orders the priorities by importance. Then, through an informative and honest account of her own ups and downs as a wife and mother, she explains her rationale for the list.

Priority one speaks of our relationship with God. She admits that, like all of us, many distractions impede our desire to put God first. As C.S. Lewis pointed out in “The Screwtape Letters,” the devil works subtly through life’s distractions. Another problem Brenninkmeyer mentions is our difficulty in trusting God in all matters. I am one who used to charge forward into the problem instead of first asking God for direction. Finally, most of us struggle with understanding the depth of God’s love for us, especially in our sinfulness.

However, as she so aptly states, “Putting God first doesn’t just make him happy. It makes life work.” Studying the above list, I asked myself, “Where is God in the actions of my day?” While I am reminded of the Benedictine motto, “Work is prayer,” I am also aware that we must consciously offer “our prayers, works, joys and sufferings” to God throughout the day.

Looking back at my life, I must admit that it has only been in the past five years that I made God an important priority in my daily life. Having done so, I have also noticed a subtle difference. While still experiencing the struggles of living, I can affirm that a consistent prayer life has afforded me a more peaceful approach (usually) to the uncertainties I encounter.

Tending to our own heart is the second priority, according to Brenninkmeyer. At first reading, that may seem selfish and counterintuitive; but it rings true in many ways. Brenninkmeyer says that understanding where we derive our self-esteem is mandatory for making positive changes. She mentioned three basic areas where most people find their value. They are our accomplishments, other people’s opinions of us and our possessions. While these three areas are not inherently negative (after all, accomplishments give us a sense of purpose), if we value them for the wrong reason, we will lose our connection to God.

For example, if what other people think is our measuring tape, then we may not speak up when we see injustice or offer important correction when we watch someone choose the wrong path. When we put too much emphasis on what we possess, we will constantly want for more. Our lives will be spent making and spending money instead of sharing and working for those less fortunate.

This is a brief taste of an excellent book. Brenninkmeyer’s life has been full of life-altering situations in which she openly discusses her own need to allow God to be in charge. Her willingness to see her faults, admit them, and work to change herself makes her book a beneficial read, especially for women (although men will benefit also).

Our lives are a balancing act. However, as Brenninkmeyer says, when we make God our first priority, “he’ll come into the mess of our lives and begin to create beauty and order.” Let us always praise God from whom all blessings flow.