Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tyranny of the Urgent

Lately I have been overrun by the tyranny of the urgent. All those things that seem to need to get done right now. I have to do laundry because we have no more clean underwear. I have to kit for a class because it's tomorrow. I have to make dinner because it's already 6:00 and Leif will be home any minute. I have to do dishes because Ellie doesn't have any clean sippy cups. And the list goes on. There are so many things that demand my immediate attention. I feel like I am perpetually behind and I can't get caught up.

The worst part about the tyranny of the urgent is that I am so busy doing the mundane tasks that cry to be done RIGHT NOW that I end up ignoring those things that really do matter. I spend an afternoon trying to put away laundry because it *needs* to be done. And while I'm doing that, I've got Eliana watching a show so I can get work done and Leif comes home to a messy house (because I didn't get the kitchen cleaned up after lunch) and no dinner. Now, a clean house is not the most important thing, but it is one of the tangible ways I can tell my husband I love him. A clean house speaks more than a thousand words could to let him know how much he means to me. And a messy house stresses him out. So I got the laundry done, but I missed an opportunity to tell my husband that he is important to me, and I missed the chance to play with my daughter because I was too busy putting away the socks and underwear.

I'm not saying that the clothes shouldn't be put away. I'm just saying that there are things that are more important than laundry.

Take tonight, for example. I was putting away laundry (because I actually DID ignore the pile of laundry so I could play with my daughter this afternoon) while Leif put Ellie to bed when I got a message from a friend asking me to pray for her. Now, I had been praying for her all week. But I had neglected to take the time to tell her that I was praying for her, so she felt alone and uncared for. And why hadn't I taken the time to let her know I cared and was praying? Because I was too busy doing the "urgent" things. I feel horrible that I left a friend feeling unaccompanied on a journey I promised to walk with her! It was certainly not my aim to leave her feeling so deserted. But I did not make it my aim to make a point of letting her know I was praying for her and so I let her down. And what do I have to show for it? Laundry in the closet instead of in the basket by the bed. Big deal! I can tell you which will have the greater impact, and it's not the one I spent the time on.

I have been succumbing to the tyranny of the urgent lately and I hate it. I hate how out of control everything feels when I am rushing from task to task because they demand attention NOW. I hate that my priorities get sidetracked and I let mundane things take their place. Tonight I scrubbed the shower and the toilet. Why? Because that's what I do when I am stressed. I am stressed because I have lost my balance. I swing like a 5 foot brunette pendulum between slob and perfectionist, letting go of my routines and then clinging so tightly my knuckles are white. I feel like hyperventilating because the clothes in my closet are not organized by sleeve length and color. I feel sick because I did not mop the kitchen today, again. These are the tell-tale signs that my life is out of focus. First because I feel the need for control and order, and second because I feel physically ill that things are not the way I think they ought to be.

And so it is time for a refocus. It's not about me. It's not about my laundry. It's not about my closet. It's not about how shiny the bathtub fixtures are, or how my clothes are folded and organized. It's about HIM. God. Creator of the world and the one who has the plan. The laundry need to be done, but it should be done for His glory, done so that we are able to get up and dressed and ready to serve Him. My house should be clean, not for clean sake, but to speak love to my family and so that our house is ready to be used by God at a moment's notice. He is a God of order and my home and life should reflect that, but serve Him, not the order itself.

Urgent things must be done tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. And I will do them. But that which is urgent should never supersede that which is important. Loving and training my daughter is important. Loving and helping my husband is important. If I can do those things while folding laundry, then Hallelujah! If not, we can go another day with the laundry in the basket. It will be okay.

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