I want to talk a little bit about prioritisation. Not really in a heavy sense, but just practical little things that I’ve learned the hard way.
For the past 6 years I’ve carried a memory of a span of time in my life when I felt closest to God. The more I recall this memory, the more romanticised it becomes in my mind. Now, the reality of it is so far from me that I’m not sure it happened at all. But I’m not quite ready to let it go, yet, and this post is all in the dim light of that distant memory, which I will refer to hereon out as the good ‘ol days.
The Good ‘Ol Days were simple—God had broken through my desire for significance by simply replacing that hole inside me with Himself. The Good ‘Ol Days lasted, for me, about 3 or 4 years. I spent a lot of time walking and talking with God. I was constantly starved for the Bible. In everything I did, I thought of Him.
But as I grew older and life became more complex, it became more difficult to ‘hold on’ to that closeness. Worries and responsibilities overcame me, and I once again found myself far from God. I no longer prayed, and my hunger for the Bible was gone. I was too busy now— I was now an adult, and these new responsibilities were ‘more important’ than my silly, romantic ideas about enjoying a real relationship with God. Oddly, this shift coincided with my entrance into the graphic design world, where I quickly rose to the top (within my tree house), and the tickle of human recognition woo’d me to the dark side. I had never felt significant to any person before I became successful as a graphic designer—my only sense of importance only ever came from God up to this point.
After diving head-first into my design career it took me a few years to realise I had left God standing at the edge of the pool. The community of design had become my new personal atmosphere.
Shortly after that I met my wife Ruth, moved to England, had our little boy Titus and here I am—realising that I’m getting old, still hungry for significance and fighting tooth and nail for it. Part of me wants to think it’s just a guy-thing, that it’s just how we’re built—to need to feel important. But knowing how ambitious my wife is, I can’t really settle at this conclusion. We all need to—not just feel significant—but to be significant.
In the wake of the recent death of Steve Jobs—an inspiration to many—we can all learn a lot about how to live life. This need to be important, I would argue, is not a flaw. It’s not a simple plea for recognition or some Freudian void accidentally bored by our parents. I believe this need is something we were designed to have, which brings me to priorities.
I used to think The Good ‘Ol Days were simply a case of the planets aligning—having a good hand in the card game of life—making it easy to maintain a relationship with God. But this wasn’t the case. My circumstances of a good job, a nice house and a nice car were not circumstances that enabled me to maintain a close relationship with God. In fact, the opposite is true: My close relationship with God is what enabled me to experience a sense of deep fulfilment. I recently realised that nowadays I’ve got it all backwards; I’ve been trying to engineer my life so that a relationship with God might be possible, but God wants me to cultivate my relationship with Him so that a deep life might be possible.
This is not groundbreaking stuff here. This is fundamental, and I admit I’ve known it for years, conceptually. But it has many applications, and for me, this one’s new.
Upon internalising this recent revelation, I’ve made some changes. I’ve cut off a few things which were taking up my time. For me, that was several little bits of design projects on the side. I’ve committed that new spare time to getting back into my Bible (app ;-). I’ve consciously coached myself toward being more mindful of God—to abide in Him. Every morning the family sits together and reads a chapter of the Bible and then prays for eachother (Titus mostly just makes slurping noises). And after having recently read Kester Brewin’s Other, I’ve also been inspired to spend less time on social networks and thinking up new ideas. I’m trying to just be, which means to rest in who God has made me, knowing that I’m not quite there yet.
I’ve only just started, and I’m not sure it will last, but my experience so far is that, by simplifying my life and trying to abide in Christ always, I already feel more peaceful. I don’t feel like I’ve got it figured out, I actually feel more lost than ever because I’m not resting in human recognition for my sense of significance. But I know I’m on the right path, because this is the same path I took in The Good ‘Ol Days. I’m determined to avoid the ‘tail wagging the dog’ in my life, and I’ve resolved myself to the worst possible scenario—that God actually doesn’t have any big plans for me. That I will never be successful, or famous, liked or even loved. But deep down, I know I already am. Just not here.