But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
"So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today.
- Matthew 6:33-34 NRSV
In the 1960s, Charles Hummel coined the term the tyranny of the urgent. The idea is that most of us can identify what is important, but we end up spending our time on what is immediate.
Every day we are bombarded with demands on our attention:
Because these things are concrete and urgent, we invest our time in dealing with them. All the while less present, but more essential items like planning, prayer, and reflection are put off and put off until there is no time left for them. I have learned very quickly that if I want to have devotional time in the morning, I have to be in the office by 8. When the office opens at 9, a steady stream of meetings, emergencies, minor crises, and personnel needs start flowing through my door. If I am to deal with them well, I need to spend time with Jesus. But if I don't intentionally make space, the urgent will eat every moment of my day.
The words of Jesus at the top come from the sermon on the Mount. Jesus was preaching to people who worked hard for the bare sustenance of life. When he tells them not to worry, I imagine many of them felt the same jolt of anxiety we do. Every time I teach on these verses, someone says, "but there is so much to worry about." Yep, there is, there always will be, and that's Jesus' point. The worrying doesn't get you anywhere. Constantly running from one task to the next is just running on a hamster wheel. The next urgent thing will always come around. Instead, Christ invites us to lift our focus, to put first the things of God and trust that the rest of it will fall into place.
That isn't easy at the best of times. Right now, we are coming out of a crisis phase where people had to attend to the urgent. Schools, businesses, workers, even churches had to reinvent themselves (several times actually) to keep operating under ever-changing conditions. When you live like that for any length of time, it is easy to get caught in those crisis patterns of rapid response and constant urgency. However, as we come into a new phase of life, we must make space for the important work once put off.
The pandemic is not over. Yet there is more space, enough space that we can set some aside for reflection, and prayer, and planning. If you convince yourself you are too busy for those things; then your busyness will never get better. If we as a congregation convince ourselves there is so much to do we cannot reflect and pray and plan; then we bend a knee to the tyrant of urgency rather than the Lord Jesus.
I am excited about what God has in store for Grace. I know that anxiety is still gnawing at us, but I don't believe God brought us this far to leave us.