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Making People My Priority

     This past week, I went to a funeral home where family and friends gathered around the smallest casket I have ever seen.  A slide show displayed pictures of the sweetest little baby girl, enjoying her first birthday, meeting Chuck E. Cheese, looking no bigger than my youngest daughter—and a few feet away was this baby girl’s casket.

     A moment like that is a terrible shock for someone like me.  I’m a to-do list maker, a go-getter, a get-things-done kind of person.  There are days when it probably seems to my daughters that since Candy Land isn’t on Mommy’s very official to-do list, we can’t play.  And, I rarely stop moving long enough to sit with my husband in the evenings, enjoying time with him just relaxing.

     Yet, at the funeral home I saw an unmistakable reminder that people are ever so much more important than any deadline or production goal.

     It’s very easy for me to let external priorities take precedence over my relationships with people, both in and out of my home.  Over the years, I’ve had to slowly learn not to begin conversations by going directly to “business.”  God has taught my heart how to truly mean it when I ask someone, “How are you doing?” and to linger there in the relationship time before moving ahead to any items on my agenda.

     From God’s perspective, people are always top priority.  His entire goal from the creation of the world was to build relationship with us.  When Adam and Eve’s sin caused a breach in that precious communion with God, He immediately began planning a way to reunite us, ultimately sacrificing His Son all because of His great, enduring and passionate love for us.  Relationship with us was always part of His plan.

If God loves people that much, then we should reflect His heart by loving people also---beginning with our husbands and children.  In his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson writes:

People are at the center of the Christian work. In the way of pilgrimage we do not drive cumbersome Conestoga wagons loaded down with baggage over endless prairies.  We travel light.  The character of our work is shaped not by accomplishments or possessions but in the birth of relationships.

     When the Psalmist writes in Psalm 127:3, “Children are God’s best gift,” (MSG) it reminds my mommy heart to value God’s greatest gifts to me by prioritizing time with my children over my work.

     But this verse isn’t just for parents.  It shows that God’s focus is always on relationships over tasks, people over productivity.  Eugene Peterson wrote, “We invest our energy in people.  Among those around us we develop sons and daughters, sisters and brothers even as our Lord did with us.”  

     There are times when loving and serving people means “other people” and not those in our own homes.   We’re “showing God’s love” to the neighbor, to the single mom at church, to the child in our Sunday School class.   Yet, sometimes the people we love the very most can get the worst part of us.  Our husbands deserve the same gentleness and respect, and cheerful tone of voice, that we show to strangers when we answer the phone!

     In one of my most favorite books, Bleak House, Charles Dickens described Mrs. Jellyby as: “a lady of very remarkable strength of character who devotes herself entirely to the public. She has devoted herself to an extensive variety of public subjects, at various times, and is at present (until something else attracts her) devoted to the subject of Africa”.

     Just like me, Mrs. Jellyby was a get-things-done kind of woman, but her eyes were so fixed on saving orphans in Africa, that her own children were starving, dirty, uneducated, in rags, and totally unloved.  Her husband hung his head in shame and generally sat quietly in a corner, totally ignored.

     Mrs. Jellyby is an extreme, but it’s not difficult to see how we can get our priorities scrambled at times.  I had a friend who had some special recipes that her family loved,.  More importantly, though, the people at her church loved them.  So, she would fix them for church potlucks.  After all, everyone wants to have the empty dish at the end of the covered dish meal!  But when her husband and kids came home and smelled the delicious cookies baking, she’d say, “Those are for church!”  Then, one day she was reminded that she should cook the special dishes and treats for her family also—not just for the people outside her home.

     I love what Paul wrote in Colossians 3:23-24: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It is Christ whom you serve” (NASB).

     In the past, I’ve taken that verse to mean that I should work hard at my job, give my best effort in ministry, and just generally DO stuff for God.  Yet, I have no greater work or ministry than serving and loving my husband and my children.  After that, my top priority should be relationships with the other people God places in my life.

    That means: Writing a note to my husband, not just the ladies in my Bible Study.  Watching my tongue with my husband and kids, choosing not to unleash all my frustration or stress on them.  Making my husband’s favorite treat rather than saving it for church suppers or company.  It’s the little things we do every day that show people are our priority. 

     I do all of these things “as for the Lord rather than for men” because “it is Christ whom I serve.”   We will get no earthly recognition, plaque, award, or productivity bonus from loving people.  In fact, if we love as we’re supposed to–humbly, quietly, and sacrificially–no one may ever even know it’s happening.  In our homes, the little ways of showing love may be overlooked. Nevertheless, God always sees our actions and heart when we, like Him, make people our priority and  He will give us “the reward of the inheritance.”


To keep up with Heather King, follow her blog at: http://heathercking.wordpress.com/

Copyright © 2008-2015 Heather King

Reader Comments...
2011-03-03 15:23:51
"Wow, thank you heather king for your insight. Sometimes I take people for granite I won't do this anymore. I try to always remember to say thank you and I try always to be grateful; because, we never know when it will be the last; and if it comes God probably would not want us to greve but for a season. Because when we are greving we are in long-suffering but we need to know the joy of the Lord will sustain us always. "
        - Rose
2011-03-01 22:15:08
"Wonderful reminder in this electronics age when so many forms of work & entertainment & distractions keeps from our most important work of all. Thank you!"
        - Lisandrea

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