I stopped putting God first in my life.
For years, “Keep God First” was a well-intentioned mantra for many of my friends and me. We said it often. We wrote it a lot. And we meant it. We did.
And J. O. Y. was a tool I used to remind myself to keep Jesus first, Others second, and You (myself) last. That seemed helpful enough. Practical enough. Self-less enough. Everyone in the right order. Priorities all aligned.
But it broke. My little tool broke.
As a wife and mother working in ministry, it got a bit tricky keeping track. (Because I should keep track, right?) It wasn’t that putting God first became harder. But that season of my life exposed the weakness of my measuring stick.
God first. Absolutely.
But how much? How long? How much of God is enough? How much time does He get?
Others second. Of course.
But when does second begin? When does the bell ring between first and second period? What part of me do others get? My family gets the left-overs? Really?
You (me) last. Sure.
But do I matter. At what point does my health matter? When do my needs matter?
That’s how I knew my measuring stick was broken. And that I needed a better one.
But seek first the kingdom of God[a] and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.MATTHEW 6:33, CSB
Yes. I knew God wanted me to seek Him and His kingdom first. But that feisty little word first stumped me. It made me make lists. And those lists created the very worst version of me.
That legalistic version of me made lists, and lots of boxes. Unintentionally. Unknowingly.
And I couldn’t even stay within the boundaries I had drawn for myself. My God box kept getting bigger and bigger, while my family box shrunk. The God box was big, but just a big box of busy. Busy doing for God, not so much spending quality time with God. (Yes. I know. Not very impressive.) My God box had a giant hamster wheel inside it. Every day, I climbed aboard and ran all day to nowhere.
Exhausted in every way, I would go home to my family that was trying to survive the shrunken space that had become home. Oh, the house was fine. The family, not so much.
Yes. I needed a new tool for measuring. To hold me accountable. Or better yet, a new tool to guide me.
I can’t retrace the entire process of how my heart and mind changed. I don’t remember if it was a long process from beginning to end. Or if it was an epiphany. I seriously do not remember.
But one day I took Jesus from the top of my list and with my heart surrendered, I offered Him a place at the center instead. Jesus at the center realigned all other things. I no longer had to balance the boxes or check the lists.
Perhaps a visual would help.
This visual changed my life. It rearranged my life. Jesus is no longer a part of my life. He is the center of my life, influencing every other part. The center is His rightful place. The place He longs to be.
It’s from the center that He calls me to Himself, gently reminding me of His presence within me.
It’s from the center that He prompts me to love others as He loves me. Family. Friends. Foes.
It’s from the center that He nudges me toward the wise decision. The better choice.
It’s from the center that He asks me to trust Him in all things. The beautiful and hard things.
And that, my friends, is why I stopped putting God first in my life.
717 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.COLOSSIANS 3, NIV