I read an article a few days ago about how to have a healthy marriage. The title was intriguing but the content left me confused (and ultimately disappointed).
The author’s first point was to make sure your priorities are in order: “Put God First,” she wrote. “Then husband, then children.” She assured readers that if you put God first, everything else would fall into place.
But she didn’t say how to put God first. It was all very vague and spiritual, like we’re supposed to know what that means.
“Put God first” is common advice for Christians to give one another. We want to please God, be “good” Christians, and to do that, we have to “put God first.” Anything else is idolatry, right?
But what does it really mean to “put God first”?
Growing up in a Christian home, I heard this advice too and followed it literally:
I did “devotions” (Bible reading and prayer journaling) first thing in the morning (it had to be in the morning. That was the “holiest” time of day)
I prayed before every meal (and especially in restaurants!)
I went to church on the first day of the week, never missing a Sunday
I gave the church 10% of my money, the “first fruits”
God was at the top of my priority list.
I had a lot of good religious fervor but little inward understanding of the faith I assumed I was devotedly living out.
But as I grew older, reaching college and beyond, my faith deepened and God taught me that being a Christian is about becoming like Jesus, following the two greatest commandments: Loving God and loving people.
My paradigm shifted…and so did my priority list.
You see, God’s not at the top anymore.
I used to love shocking my freshman students with this news; they would come into my class, wide-eyed and Jesus-lovin’, ready to set the world on fire for God. (Doing their homework though was another story).
I started most of my classes with a brief faith-lesson and prayer and this was one of my favorites:
I would stand at the white board, a dry erase marker in my hand. “What are your priorities, your ideal priorities? Let’s list them. Shout ‘em out.”
Their lists always looked something like this:
The order varied from class to class but one constant was that God was always at the top. And I asked them, “What does it mean for God to be first on your priority list?”
And I waited. They were usually quiet for a bit, their brows furrowed. Then hands would tentatively raise, and they would list the same things I used to do as a teenager.
“Those are all good things,” I praised them. “But I want to challenge you to go a bit deeper. What if,” I grabbed the eraser,“ your list looked like this.”
And I erased “God” off the top.
I paused for (shameless) dramatic effect because my favorite part was seeing them shift uncomfortably in their seats. We were at a conservative Christian University after all!
But then I raised the marker again, quickly adding a word to each bullet point on the board.
God + school
God + sleep
God + friends
God + exercise
God + eating
God + boyfriend/girlfriend
God + work
God + having fun
Then I turned back to the class and asked: “How does this change your priority list?
Reading our Bibles and praying is good, but what does it mean to be a student that honors God?
How does that affect the way you do your homework or what time you go to bed?
What does it mean to honor God with your eating or exercise?
How can you take godly principles into your dating relationships?
Are you honoring God with your work ethic and your down time?
They would stare at me wide-eyed, some still frowning, some with small smiles dawning on their faces. And I would leave it there; we’d delve into comma splices and topic sentences for the next hour.
Sometimes, if I was really lucky, a student would hang back after class to talk to me.
“That priorities thing? I’ve never thought about it that way before.”
I would nod. “I think it’s because we like rules. We like everything in neat little boxes that we can check off, like we fulfilled our “God time” for the day or week. Shifting God away from the top and into every area of our lives is kind of revolutionary.”
“But freeing too. There’s a lot less ‘have to’ and a lot more room for real, abundant life.”
The student would smile and I would smile because these are the types of conversations that make me come alive.
God doesn’t want to be regulated to the top of your priority list.
He wants to be a part of every facet of our lives, in genuine life-giving relationship, because that’s what it’s all about: Relationships—our relationship with God, our relationship with others, and our relationship with ourselves as we strive each day to become more like Jesus.
I hope that my story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
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