We’ve made some changes around here.
Given that our oldest (at home) is quickly approaching high school, we’re coming to the end of an era. We’ve been homeschooling for the past nine years, and it has been a sweet time for our family. Very possibly, some subset or all three children will attend ‘school in a building’ in the next few years. Within a decade, they will be in college. Their days at home have always been numbered, but I’m beginning to see the point at the end of the number line approaching more quickly than I’d prefer. As that reality became more, well… more real, a question began to haunt me.
What if this were to be our last year?
What would I do differently? What would I want to make sure we experienced? Read? Played?
The truth is, for all of us, this could be the last year. The last year working at a particular job. The last year living in the current city or neighborhood. The last year that any given person will be in my life. If I knew in advance that the current situation were about to change, what would I do differently?
I don’t want to live a life of regret. “What if this were to be our last year?” has become the banner under which decisions are made. Not with a spirit of fear, but with a focused, expectant intentionality.
Early in my corporate career, I was introduced to Stephen Covey and his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. One of the most memorable illustrations from Covey’s teachings is the Big Rock principle. I’m a visual learner. In the spirit of tackling ‘first things first’, I trotted off to Michael’s craft store and brought home the components of our life lesson.
Jars – Signify the hours in a day. Their capacity is finite. Twenty-four hours is all we get.
Big rocks – The most important priorities. These are the nonnegotiables.
Small rocks – The activities we enjoy and want to do more often. Good things but not crucial.
Sand – Less significant. Not to be confused with Sabbath rest and reflection, sand represents those not-so-constructive activities we use to “check out.” I have a few. And I bet you do as well.
If we fill our days with sand, we run out of room for the big rocks. The reality of our daily lives doesn’t embody our stated priorities. When this happens, I end up feeling frustrated, disappointed, and on the worst days, despair.
Yet if we start with the big rocks – structure our choices around that which we deem most important, well, you get the picture.
As we were plunking rocks and pouring sand, I couldn’t help but to feel some relief. Surely this conversation would bolster my case for working hard, getting chores accomplished cheerfully and quickly, and developing unselfish, joyful relationships between siblings. Yes. I had found the perfect illustration to support my case. Until one of my children, as does frequently happen, asked the question.
“Mom, if we’re supposed to want what God wants, don’t you think some other things are really more important?”
More important than mastering your Latin declensions, obeying your parents, and cleaning your room? Really? Hmm. Good point.
I realized that I had hoped this exercise would reinforce my priorities. But that was the problem. It was my agenda. Not that the things I want for my children aren’t valuable and important – I believe that they are. But are they really THE big rocks? What exactly do we value most?
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30
THAT is the big rock.
Or more specifically, allowing Him to pursue me.
That’s where we start.
Everything else must follow.
In Me, Myself, & Bob, Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales, tells the story of the rise and fall of his company, Big Idea. The business case he unfolds is fascinating, particularly for a former banker. I’m like a kid in a candy story when discussing marketing and strategic planning. Although captivated by both the personal drama and business details in the book, I was stopped by his personal reflection at the end. Vischer had wanted good things for God. He wanted to further the Kingdom. Yet this admirable dream was plucked out of his hardworking, persevering, highly-creative hands. What happened?
In response, Phil Vischer offers the hard, hopeful insight:
“The impact God has planned for us doesn’t occur when we’re pursuing impact. It occurs when we’re pursuing God.”
That’s the big rock.
Not my agenda.
Not my dreams.
Not the good things I can do to further His Kingdom.
I’m grateful to share that I’ll be hearing from Phil Vischer this weekend. He’ll be speaking at Hutchmoot, a gathering of folks occurring in Nashville. This is an uber-talented group, of which many earn a livelihood creating for the common good. They have a great deal to give. I find it fitting that the speaker won’t be offering a talk on “The Five Keys to Building a Successful Business ” or “Effective Marketing Techniques to Grow Your Platform.” Phil Vischer achieved those goals. He had great impact. But the years were eventually marked by loss and heartache – which resulted in a deep well of wisdom. And from that wisdom flows the most valuable lesson of all. One that has been taught over and over through the ages to a people who are slow to learn.
“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. . . You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.” Revelation 2:2-4
Yes, we need to make some changes around here. I want to lay down my big rocks of personal agenda, control, and self-reliance. Daily, I’ve allowed good dreams to usurp that which is best.