When Jesus, Jack, and Curly All Say the Same Thing
By Mark DeVries and Laura Addis
I’ve heard that until sometime in the late 1800’s, the word “priority,” (an Old English word meaning “first thing,” the thing that comes “prior to”) could never be found in the plural. By definition, there could only be one “first thing.”
In more recent years, it has become more and more common to use the word “priority” in the plural. It is common now for people to speak of their “priorities,” of the three or four, or twenty “first things” in their lives. When “balance” becomes the first priority, we end up trying to balance the first thing with lots of competing second things.
I’m afraid we’ve missed the point, by assuming that having more than one priority will allow us to accomplish even more, to live life more fully. Sadly, the opposite is more often true.
C.S. Lewis was right: “Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first and we lose both first and second things.” Jesus was right: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.“ Curly was right: “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean s***.”
As anyone who has had an eye exam knows, it is incredibly difficult to function with double vision. Instead of opening a world of opportunities, everything becomes blurred when we focus on more than one thing at a time.
As those closest to me will be more than happy to tell you, focus has been one of my biggest challenges. I love to dream and create. I divide my attention between dozens of $50 projects and miss the pearl of great price. But always, the seasons of the greatest transformation in my life have come when I have take the opportunity to step outside of the normal flow of life and focus on the one thing.
I know what you’re thinking. We no longer live in a world where we can have just one priority. We’ve got faith, family, jobs, community, church, school. If Jesus and Jack were right (and I’ve bet my life that they were), the answer will not be found as we spend our days in a frantic balancing act of secondary priorities.
Different seasons each call us to a different first priority (redundancy intentional). In harvest, the farmer is deliberately unbalanced with his hours. In grief, a family chooses to push all else aside to tend to the end of a loved one’s life. As leaders, there are times when nothing can get our teams to where they need to be without an unapologetic singularity of purpose.
As you step into the new year, may you find yourself blessedly unbalanced in favor of the single priority for the season you’re in today.
Excerpt from a letter to Dom Bede Griffiths (April 23, 1951)
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