Priorities for life
Originally printed as an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel
A lot of advice these days centers on setting priorities. Whether it's the need for a nation to define realistic objectives in foreign policy or for individuals to balance demands of work, family, and personal development, the expert consensus seems to be, "You can't do everything, so decide what your priorities are and stick to them."
But it's not always easy to decide what's most important when daily life isn't neat or static. Priorities have a way of shifting with the next demand or crisis - which points to the need for guideposts that remain relevant no matter how often the scene changes. When it comes to setting priorities for life, it's hard to improve on these: Love God with all your heart and soul. Love your neighbor as yourself.
In pursuing these goals, and in the spirit of a fellow striver, here are a few ideas:
A class of preschoolers makes it a rule to begin each day with an enthusiastic "Good morning, God!" You can get more sophisticated, but the point is to make it a priority to gladly acknowledge God's presence early and often - as you would someone you love very much. This expression of love might take the simple form of a thank-you to the one Mind, which causes all right thought, motive, and action in the universe. For example, Psalm 145 makes a wonderful prayer of thanks: "The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works. All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord; and thy saints shall bless thee" (verses 9 and 10).
Natural, spontaneous love for the Father and Mother of all creation develops consistency and depth through a structured (though not a rigid) approach to prayer. Time spent studying God's Word renews inspiration. Gaining a familiarity with psalms, hymns, and other prayers supplies ideas to guide us any time of the day or night.
Love for God grows as we sincerely pray for it and affirm that we have it, as this hymn does: "I am Thine, and I will be/ Ever, only, all for Thee" ("Christian Science Hymnal," No. 324). This prayer also reveals another fact of our true nature: we aren't bound to anything bad in life, such as selfishness, envy, or fear. When thoughts intrude that don't honor God, we can promptly and honestly deny that they have any hold on us, because we are "His" only.
Love your neighbor as yourself
A high-school student who works at a bagel bakery says her goal is to treat every customer like her best friend. "In the few minutes I serve them, I try to give them the best experience possible, and a bagel just the way they like it," Alexis told me one day. Again, you can get more sophisticated, but the basic lesson is that loving each other is a priority that brings a healthy, and an increasingly graceful, perspective to everything we do.
To love our neighbor as ourselves is the command Jesus put next to loving God. Plunging to the deep meaning of such love, Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy wrote, "... thou shalt recognize thyself as God's spiritual child only, and the true man and true woman, the all-harmonious 'male and female,' as of spiritual origin, God's reflection, - thus as children of one common Parent, - wherein and whereby Father, Mother, and child are the divine Principle and divine idea, even the divine 'Us' - one in good, and good in One" ("Miscellaneous Writings," pg. 18).
Striving to practice this kind of love for ourselves and our neighbors has the effect of bringing more evidence of the universally operating divine Principle into our lives.
Loving God and His children before all else - the priority that guides all other priorities - helps us discern what our immediate task should be at a given time. Sticking to our priorities for life, we'll have the perspective to know what needs to be done and when.
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(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society