What are you ordering for Lent? The blue-plate Friday special with a big t-bone steak! Ha, just kidding! That’s not the kind of order I meant, but I couldn’t resist the silly pun. What are you ordering for Lent – in your life?
In my last post I wrote about how changeful my Lenten season is this year. Thus, during these past two weeks, a theme that has been repeating in my life is – how shall I order my life in the midst of this transition? This past Sunday we heard the Gospel on Jesus cleaning up the temple. At mass, the priest drew our attention to beautiful connection Christ makes between the temple of Jerusalem and the temple of His body. The priest encouraged us to reflect on our own bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit, and how we might invite Christ into this Lenten processes of ordering the temple of our bodies to God. That got me thinking more on the theme of ordering my life…
I heard someone say that our time is our biggest resource today. Makes sense to me – our time is a representation and realization of our priorities, of where we invest our love and energy. To what/who do I devote the most time? How do I order my daily schedule? In order to figure this out, we have to make lots of decisions. What values determine my decisions? What is my discernment process for making decisions?
So, time is my resource, and decisions are the vehicle through which I shape that time. Okay. How can we look at the different facets of life? I’ll propose two main categories: “what we do,” or our job/careers (and yes being a mom at home counts of course!!); and I’ll propose relationships as the second big facet – who we love, who we spend time with, with whom we live our lives. Oh and then there’s God, right?
Visual pictures help me out. So here’s some non-ideal ways to order life. I’ve done them, you’ve done them. Let’s take a step back and see where we are:
Order #1 “I do a good job”
My career is in a new developmental phase – so obviously that’s where I should focus all my energy, right? It’s responsible, practical and seriously necessary right now. Perhaps you’re at the top of your game in your career, or just starting up after graduating high school or college, or you’re unemployed and fighting anxiety during the job search. In our productivity-driven society, it’s easy to start equating self-worth and life value with career success and thus adjusting our own “how I’m doing” barometer to those external scales. We spend our time first on our career before other things, and our career is the heaviest weighing factor on the decisions in our personal lives. After work, then we consider relationships, and if there is time left over, we might give some attention to our spiritual lives.
Order #2 “I always put others first”
I just moved back to Austin, where I’m from, and man, am I excited to be back. I really want to spend time on my relationships, my family, connecting again with my friends and my Church community. I have missed them and it’s so beautiful to be back with them. Family comes first, right? Our spouses, significant others – they are number one, more important than what we do for work. After all, we work to provide for them, right? It’s a holy and loving thing to put others before ourselves. Or perhaps you are blessed with children – they are certainly the biggest priority! I mean when they wake up, you gotta wake up, that orders your day real fast! We dedicate most of our time to our relations and the people we love have the greatest influence on our decisions. Our relationship with God is in there too, somewhere.
Order #3 Seek Ye First
I think you can see the different with this third option – I may have exaggerated this whole process a bit and made it easy to see the “right” answer. But I hope you were able to identify with each of the three ways of ordering life, because I certainly have experienced each one. “Seek Ye First” may sounds easy and obvious, but I have found during this time of transition that it is neither easy or obvious. It has really taken a lot of conscious effort and awareness to identify how I am making these daily changes that create an ordered life, and a life ordered to God first. I even had someone point out to me that perhaps I wasn’t ordering my life to God as intentionally as I thought -that was painful! But true. And it really helped me. I took all all these facets of my life to God in prayer – my job, my relationships, my decisions – and in prayerful dialogue with Him, asked for His input.
That’s the essence of the third doodle: Seek Ye First means taking time to pray over our decisions with God, and making the sacrificial decisions to order our life towards Him above all else. It also means seeing everything in relationship to Him: Our career is how we glorify Him and collaborate in His creative work. Our relationships are a call to love and give of ourselves to others as He did, and to lift up everyone in our lives to Heaven. And we should take our decisions before Him in discernment that we might ask for and receive His wisdom and peace which passes all understanding.
One last note – the main principle underlying all of this is that our lives must be ordered to life, as God is the God of life. So that means that order must also be responsive to life or flexible. And it also means that each person’s life order will correspond to the nature of their life – ie family, married, consecrated, young, elderly, etc etc etc. In this way our decisions and time are at the service of life, and fruitful through the God of life.