Prioritizing time is critical. Time cannot be recovered. Once it is gone, it is gone forever.
Before I converted to Catholicism, I was an Evangelical pastor serving in Southwest Florida. Living in a community with a high percentage of retirees offered me opportunities to hear the life stories of the elderly members of my congregation.
One unforgettable afternoon, a retired executive shared his work and family life story with me. In less than three minutes, he told me about the high-level position he achieved with General Electric. For the rest of a very long story, he told me all the details about his children and grandchildren. It became obvious that nearing the final chapters of life brought with it a clear vision of life and family priorities that are often obscured during our working years.
How can we gain wisdom for priorities before nearing the end of our lives? One way is to hear the shocking news that you are facing a life-threatening illness. A prime example is how a cancer diagnosis affected Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
“Then came exile, and right at the beginning of my exile, cancer … it looked very much as though I had only a few months to live. All that I had memorized in the camps ran the risk of extinction together with the head that held it. This was a dreadful moment in my life.
“I did not die, however. With a hopelessly neglected and acutely malignant tumor, this was a divine miracle. Since then, all the life that has been given back to me has not been mine in the full sense: it is built around a purpose …”
Obviously, we want a way to discover a purpose-centered life without facing terminal cancer. Yet without some intrusion, interruption or input, the human condition tempts all of us to easily lose sight of the things that matter most.
There is a neglected method for gaining wisdom regarding time and life priorities, namely prayer. We need to regularly ask God to place his priorities in our hearts. My favorite priorities prayer is from Psalm 90 (the bolded words)
“The years of our life are threescore and ten, or even by reason of strength fourscore; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away… So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (verses 10 & 12).
As you begin praying for wisdom for priorities, don’t be surprised to discover that your family life takes on an increasing precedence over the endless stream of seemingly urgent things.
One important practical step is making a priority of having a family meal at least once a day, especially the evening meal. A survey of teens showed that high school students who seldom (or never) eat dinner together with their families are almost four times as likely to engage in premarital intercourse and half as likely to spend time studying than those teens who regularly eat dinner with their families. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University reports that teens who regularly eat dinner with their family and attend church with their parents are less likely to use drugs.
The benefits stemming from restoring marriage and family priorities will have beneficial effects beyond the family circle. The Old Testament prophet Malachi described the familial, social, and religious deterioration taking place in his day. He warned that a “great and terrible” day of judgment was coming upon the land. In his mercy, God offers a family-based blueprint for restoring the crumbling culture and averting his wrath. “And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse” (Malachi 4:6).
As fathers (and mothers) turn their hearts to their children, children return to the faith and values of their parents. Spiritual restoration of the family, church, and culture is the result.
Portions of this article take from Christian Fatherhood by Stephen Wood and James Burnham.
STEVE WOOD is founder of St. Joseph’s Covenant Keepers, and reaches large audiences through his TV/radio programs “Faith &Family” and “Luke 21 Radio.” Former host of EWTN’s “The Carpenter Shop” and author of several books including Christian Fatherhood and Legacy: A Father’s Handbook for Raising Godly Children. Married 38 years, he and wife Karen, have eight children and nine grandchildren. www.dads.org