The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first.
The ‘well ordered heart’ that John Ortberg writes about is actually an idea that goes back to St. Augustine (354-430 AD) who said that a true definition of virtue is “well ordered love.” If that is true then maybe it is a well ordered life we should be pursuing, rather than trying to keep life in balance. An ordered life is one based on priorities, but not just by selecting a list of priorities like the slices in the wheel from part 1 of this post. Instead these priorities that should be built on “just one thing.”
What could be more important than finding the “one thing” that will make sense of your life? For many of us, men and police officers in particular, what we do becomes the thing we live for. What we “do for a living” is among the first things we talk about when we meet other men. Being employed is what pays the bills and supports our family. The job takes up much of our time and energy. If we are not careful it can become our identity. Could what we do be the “one thing?”
It may be easier to identify this “one thing” if you consider what would be important to you with only a few hours to live. There is the old saying that “no one on their deathbed ever regrets not spending more time at the office.” What are you likely to regret in those last moments, what would you want with you if you knew your life was ending? Of course it is not possessions or accomplishments we cherish and want with us at our deathbed, it is the people that we love; family and close friends. It is people that become the the most important in the end, and it is people who should form the foundation for our priorities now.
In our final moments we all realize that relationships are what life is all about. Wisdom is learning that truth sooner rather than later.
When priorities were being questioned Jesus said “only one thing is needed” (Luke 10:42) and Paul points to ‘one thing’ when he said, “The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14). The ordered life that works is built on the foundation of that single command. Focusing on relationships, beginning with a relationship with God is the key to establishing priorities that can remain stable regardless of your circumstances. Stress will increase and decrease as crisis come and crisis pass, causing your life to swing out of balance, but establishing priorities that will survive those storms will always bring things back into order.
An “order” that begins with a relationship with God reveals another problem with the idea of “balance,” it tends to relegate our spiritual life to one of the slices of the pie. If we keep God in a single slice we separate him from the others. This is the mistake that keeps God in church on Sunday and out the things that go on Monday through Saturday. A well-ordered heart puts God first and gives him access and influence in all areas of life.
Evaluate your priorities by listing them with a focus on the relationship in each. Yours may look different, but here is my list:
- Relationship with God
- Relationship with my wife
- Relationships with my kids
- Relationships with my extended family
- Relationships with my leadership
- Relationships with people at work
- Relationships with community members
Does this list include home, job, money, health, recreation or any of the other things that would have been slices of the pie? They are in there for sure; home is 1,2,3 and at times 4. Work is 1, 5,6 and 7. Money comes out of 5 and 6, belongs to 1 and provides for 2 and 3, and so on.
The “one thing” is a well-ordered heart which leads to prioritizing your life according to your relationships. This may be simple to understand, but not easy to do. Are your current priorities focused on material things, accomplishments or other things that will not matter in the end? Are there things you need to change?
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”