I’ve been thinking a lot about priorities lately. Compared to many of today’s families our daily lives are really quite simple. We are not involved in very many on-going regularly-scheduled outside-the-home activities. Yet each morning there are things to be done, tasks to be accomplished. We have a never-ending to-do list, places to go, people to see. It can be overwhelming at times.
I’m sure your life is the same way. I don’t know that there’s any escaping such a lifestyle in 21st century America. It seems I can never do all the things I need to do, much less all the things I’d like to do. And so, I establish priorities. What is most important for this day? This moment?
The conclusion I have come to is that the only thing that really matters is eternity. Does the way I spend my time now have a bearing on eternity? Does it draw me closer to God? Does it influence someone else to be drawn closer to God?
No, we don’t live in a convent or a monastery or some sort of church-like bubble on some heavenly plain. We live in the real world. We have regular ol’ work-hard-for-a-living responsibilities. We have children to raise and toilets to clean. The question is, how are we influencing those around us as we go about our daily lives?
My 6th grade teacher challenged me to memorize Longfellow’s A Psalm of Life. I thought of one of the stanzas as I was mulling this over, so I looked up the whole poem. I can’t still quote the whole thing, but maybe I should re-learn it:
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,–act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;–
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.