I heard a story years ago about a holy man in India who announced that he was traveling to the United States. A colleague warned him, “Be careful! The pace of life there might get you!” If the fast times in America can suck in a swami, I wondered what chance have I got? I began to notice how when I wake up in the morning my brain gets busy right away. “What if this?” it wonders. “What if that? I want to –I need to – I have to!” There’s so much to think about, so much to do.
I think in Jesus’ day people got caught up in their daily lives the same way. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6) Jesus talks about setting priorities . After noting all the things that concern and worry people then (and now), He says: “But seek first the kingdom of God.” Matthew 6:33. ESV The way I understand the passage, He is telling us to make that connection before the rapids of everyday life sweep us too far downstream to do anything other than paddle frantically to stay afloat.
I confess that I can get carried away by almost anything that catches my attention. Some mornings I tell myself I can attend to one little project around the house before seeking the kingdom of God. Later that afternoon when I’m still gathering tools, running to a DIY store for another part or stubbornly refusing to admit that I need to call a professional, I might remember how I intended to start the day. After hours of such frustrated struggle. delay or difficulty, I’m in no mood for “religion.”
I believe that Jesus really meant “Seek first” to apply to my daily life. I have to do something that focuses my mind on the kingdom of heaven before the everyday rush eclipses that possibility. That focus won’t be the same for everyone. It could be Bible study or one of the many forms of prayer like contemplation, Lectio Divina, or the rosary.
My method is meditation, sitting in the presence of God. It’s often hard to convince myself to take the time. Some mornings I can luxuriate in stillness and silence for an hour, but other days it’s hard to make my restless, anxious body remain still for at least fifteen or twenty minutes. Before I can begin meditation, I have to order my mind firmly to avoid solving problems, seeking solutions, or making lists of more things to do. The point of my meditation is to take my attention away from the world and turn it in some way toward “the kingdom of God.”
Another confession: Trusting that an answer to my concerns will come later works even in small ways: Once when I didn’t know how to wire up a ceiling light/fan combo and again when I needed to get a stuck computer to run. Maybe the calmness that attends faith helped me see my problems more clearly. Maybe God does tiny little miracles for the children who seek Him first. Maybe both are true when I get my daily priorities straight.