As the saying goes, too much of a good thing is no longer a good thing. Anyone who has been in a pancake- eating contest can understand the wisdom behind it.
This inverse relationship - how having more is satisfying less - was explored in a recent Newsweek article, "The Afflictions of Affluence" (March 22). Trends such as increased obesity, time-management stress, and buyer's remorse are tied to the problem of having too much to choose from and having no criteria for what really satisfies.
The quest for what satisfies isn't new. Two thousand years ago an itinerant preacher urged his followers: "Take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? ... Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:31, 33).
Those in his predominantly Jewish audience would have been acutely aware of the popular values of Greco-Roman culture in which they lived. Many would have been struggling just to put a meal on the table.
But perhaps the wealthier among them would have felt the pressure to define their lives by how much they had, what fashions they wore, how many feasts they could give ... and always be second-guessing their choices.
Here was a challenge, then. This preacher, Jesus of Nazareth, wanted them to look to God first. He encouraged them to see in their needs - their deepest desires - a spiritual dimension that could be supplied only by the infinite nature of God. Weren't they hungering and thirsting for more than food or drink? Wouldn't they truly be filled by doing what was right and good? Weren't those who ached to be comforted needing solace in the steadiness of God's love? Jesus understood both what people craved and what they needed. Go to God first, he urged.
Two millenniums later, that time-tested message still had something to teach me. All my activities were operating at a "priority one" level. If a dashboard had been attached to my life, every gauge and warning light would have been flashing red.
I couldn't keep up with the demands from work. My kids were on multiple sports teams and taking music lessons. Managing carpools required the sophistication of a computer program. Church and other volunteer activities seemed like full-time jobs. The laundry was piling up, and the yard looked terrible. I also had a chronic ear problem that flared up, becoming both uncomfortable and annoying.
It was the ear that really got my attention. It seemed to epitomize how congested my whole life felt.
Prayer for well-being has long been part of my daily regimen, but so much was going on that I didn't feel capable of listening for inspiration. I remember driving back from one meeting on my way to another event, thinking further about my ear, when it occurred to me that ears were associated not just with hearing but with balance.
Balance! Of course! That was what I really needed in my life. But how? There were at least 10 zillion time- management books I could order online. I didn't have time to read them.
But I recalled a sentence written by Mary Baker Eddy. "I will gain a balance on the side of good, my true being" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," page 104). This clarified everything. I was unbalanced when I placed myself outside God's goodness and tried to manage things on my own, including my health. The need to put God first was obvious. With God and in God, I would find the wisdom, compassion, joy, and much needed rest to live a fulfilling life.
What a relief to have God at the top of my priority list.
The next morning, I felt like rushing up and down the stairs before the day even started, but on the second step, I stopped. I acknowledged that I would stay balanced by staying with God. On the third step, I felt the ear drain. It was a wonderful confirmation that I had restored a spiritual balance in my life.
In the following weeks and months, my priorities came into line naturally. It was easier to choose what to do and when to do it. Some activities dropped off the agenda. Others expanded. Some days are still hectic, but each day that I start with God first is a day I know will be balanced with good.