By Elisa Pulliam, Crosswalk.com
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord. —Colossians 3:23
The start of a new year is a good time to focus on how to prioritize your relationships, responsibilities, and resources. These priorities will ultimately help you determine a fresh new routine and shape how you spend your time in the future.
Let me illustrate how this works: Imagine having an empty jar that you need to fill with a combination of rocks, pebbles, and sand. All of them are designed to fit in the jar, but you must load them in the proper order or they all won’t all fit. Do you know what you should put in first? The rocks, because they take up the most space, followed by the pebbles, which will fall into the empty spaces, before you finally put in the sand, which will slide into the crevices.
My friend, your life is like a jar. Only so much can fit into it, so you need to identify the rocks, pebbles, and sand and put them in the jar in the right order. This has been a struggle for me because I always think my jar is bigger than it is. However, as I’ve worked toward practicing what I preach, I’ve been able to parse out my priorities in a way that finally makes sense.
The big rocks are my relationship with God, my husband and children, and family and friends as well as embracing opportunities to share the gospel and God’s love with others.
The pebbles pertain to details: caring for my home, work, other ministry responsibilities, and taking care of my health.
And the sand, well, that’s the laundry, chores, and challenges I’d rather ignore but must fit into my life.
While my priorities may not reflect yours, identifying them has given me the freedom to allow baskets of clean laundry to sit in the den, like jets lined up on the tarmac, without a shred of guilt. And that, my friend, is a miracle.
You see, for too many years, I thought I was a failure as a housekeeper because I couldn’t stay on top of the laundry folding. No matter how well I stuck to my routine of tossing a new load into the washer each morning and making sure it hit the dryer cycle by dinnertime, inevitably I left those freshly dried clothes abandoned for days on end.
I finally let go of the guilt when I accepted that the reason wasn’t my lack of ability but rather my priorities—an intentional choice. I chose to spend more time on other things because I believed that having clean laundry was just as good as having folded clean laundry . . . and the unfolded loads could wait there for a while without hurting anyone. I accepted that folding laundry was sand and not rocks in my jar. Mind you, it’s still a responsibility that I will get to, but it’s not the priority I had once thought it needed to be.
Depending upon the chaos of the week, and the unexpected crisis of the day, I might let the laundry go, allow the dishes to pile up in my sink, and put off scrubbing the tub until it’s absolutely necessary.
I have decided that those are the tasks that can wait, at least for a few hours or more, while I work on something that’s more important.
Which of your responsibilities is a source of guilt or condemnation? Could that guilt be misplaced? Or is it time to shake up your priorities?
The truth is that we all have something, or someone, waiting on us.
Maybe it’s the pile of junk mail taking up priceless real estate on the kitchen counter. Or the school paperwork waiting to be read, signed, and returned. Or a boss who wants the project summary turned in yesterday. At the heart of the matter, the issue is not what’s waiting, but why it’s waiting.
Ironically, in life coaching, we’re never supposed to ask why because it automatically puts a person on the defensive. If I came right out and asked, “Why haven’t you done _____________?,” you might feel as though I’d overstepped a few boundaries. So let me pose the question in a different way: Is there something or someone waiting on you because you’re avoiding your responsibilities?
If you search for the answer to that question, you’ll uncover your priorities and begin to see the core thinking that’s influencing your daily habits.
It’s really a heart thing.
When we consider what’s been left undone in a day, we need to figure out if we’re being neglectful or intentional. In other words, are we pursuing the opportunities God is laying before us—or running from them? Are we embracing the work He has for us or rejecting it?
Yes, work. See, God has designed us to work, which is about so much more than simply what we get paid to do. All of our responsibilities, whether folding laundry, reading to a child, running a ministry, or attending a business meeting, are work in God’s eyes. Our work is what we put our hands to—the tasks we love and hate, the ones we’ve chosen, and the ones we can’t get out of doing.
This work matters much to God, regardless of how the world perceives or receives it.
Your work is significant not because of the outcome but because of the motive—meaning the state of your heart—whether you’re washing one more dish, completing one more spreadsheet, or matching one more pair of socks.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23–24)
Would you agree that if all of your work is to be done for the glory of God, then anyone else for whom you do it matters a lot less?
Your work is holy when you’re doing it for the glory of God.
Those very people you devote your time to serving—whether family, friends, colleagues, or strangers—move into a priority position in your life, not because they deserve it, but because you see them through the lens of God’s love and His desires for their eternal good. This shift in thinking considers time and work under God’s sovereign purposes rather than our willy-nilly wishes, which is exactly what Henry and Richard Blackaby write about in Experiencing God. They suggest that we shift our focus so that we can “watch to see where God is working and join Him!”
What a liberating way of living!
After more than a decade of living this way, I can promise that God will open your eyes to see His work simply because you ask Him. You’ll also discover that your work won’t look like anyone else’s. Can you imagine how that could relieve the guilt you live with all too often?
God’s glorious work is set apart for you and me.
His work. His timing. His purposes. God wants to establish all of your work according to how He made you.
So imagine if when your feet hit the floor in the morning, you said to God, Show me Your work today, Lord. I want to join You in it! Imagine waking up to God’s fresh new mercies and asking Him how you should tend to your responsibilities, relationships, and resources, because you trust His holy purposes, even when the tasks may be as mundane as laundry folding, tub scrubbing, or setting a meeting agenda with a new client.
The mundane will become holy when it’s done for the glory of God.
This excerpt is from Meet the New You: A 21-Day Plan for Embracing Fresh Attitudes and Focused Habits for Real Life Change by Elisa Pulliam. Used by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Elisa Pulliam is passionate about women experiencing a life transformed by God for the sake of impacting the next generation—a mission fueled by God’s redeeming work in her life and 20-plus years in youth and women’s ministry. She’s the founder of moretobe.com, serves as the Executive Director of kingdomhearts.us, and is a life coach, coach trainer, and speaker. However, she considers her greatest roles as wife to Stephen and mom to four amazing children at their home in New York. Connect with Elisa at elisapulliam.com.