Last week I had breakfast with my friend and mentor Benjamin Sledge. After some french toast and a little catching up, I began to tell him about how horrible I was doing in school. Lately I've been so busy with ministry and things that homework really didn't seem that important to me. This was a relatable issue for him, not too long ago, when he first started getting into ministry and serving, and especially after he got married. The familiarity to him was that I was stretching myself too thin. I had taken on too much and eventually I would start burning out. The important lesson he learned while going through the same situation was how to prioritize things. "I always thought it was God, Wife, Ministry, then myself. When in reality it's supposed to be God, MYSEFLF, Wife, and then ministry." He would go on to explain that I needed to take care of myself before I could take care of other people, and it's possible that I would have to cut some things out of my daily life.
"You can't be afraid to let people down. God's going to work whether you're there or not."
This was probably some of the best advice I had received in a while, and yet there was something missing. I didn't feel stretched. I didn't feel like I was on the edge of burning out. I was having fun. I was doing a lot of things that I had wanted to do for a while. I had a purpose. I felt accomplished. I WAS cutting something out of my life, but that something just happened to be school.
And that's when I realized that Ben was right, but it wasn't that I was taking on too much, it was that my priorities were all out of whack.
Ministry had become a lot to me within the past few weeks. I was devoting everything I had - time, resources, and talent - into ministry, and overall I wasn't doing much for myself. More importantly ministry had taken a priority over God; in fact, ministry WAS my God. I had inadvertently mistaken serving in the church with putting God first, and it was affecting how I interacted with the rest of the world.
Once I discovered this I immediately made some changes. I began to prioritize myself, and I stopped making excuses. The one thing I needed to cut was procrastination. This is what was actually hurting me. So instead of hanging out with friends or working on something for the church as I usually do, I started doing the homework I had been neglecting the past few weeks. I started to apply myself in the areas of my life of which I had committed to. I avoided going home, because for some reason the one place I won't do my homework is at home. This resulted in some very long nights at coffee shops, and a few gatherings, get togethers, or events that I would have to miss, but overall there was a LOT getting done.
I was a machine.
Once I was all caught up I realized that my problem had nothing to do with "not having enough time." I had plenty of time to do everything that I wanted/needed to do. My problem was time management and the harmful fact that I was just wasting it.
Truth be told. I was being lazy.
The most important change I made, however, is still one I'm struggling with the most. God is still required to come first before myself, my friends, or my ministry, and yet that's the hardest one to figure out. I hadn't realized exactly how much I was neglecting Him or our relationship. That days would go by without me acknowledging him or weeks before I would open my bible or talk to Him. This was the real tragedy in all of this, and I knew that I needed to put Him first if I was ever going to accomplish what He has for me to do.
So this shift in priorities has given me an ample amount of time to still finish the work that needs to be done, allows me plenty of time to work on my relationships, and still manages to give me moments of rest. All this because I've effectively cut out procrastination, and not allowing myself to make excuses or put things first that ultimately don't matter. I've allowed God to work even when I'm not around, and I'm trying my best to continue putting Him first so that I can ultimately do well what He provides for me.
It feels good.