We were taking a lazy drive on a Sunday afternoon. Mom was in the passenger seat, Dad was driving, and I was seated in the back seat. A pencil rolled out from underneath the driver seat by my feet. I picked it up and said excitedly, ‘Hey, I found a pencil, is it yours, Dad?’
That’s precisely when this conversation that has been reverberating in me all my life started. What I thought was a straightforward question blew the top off of my head at the time. My Dad, a Marine from WW II, said, “We really don’t own anything we have.” That simple, and yet that very complex.
My little seven or eight-year-old mind could not wrap itself around that statement right off the bat. It took a little while to think about this. “What do you mean, Dad? What about my clothes?” “Nope, you don’t own them.” “Well, then what about my shoes?” “No, you don’t own those either.” Wait. What?? “What about my toys?” “Not those either.” “Well, who owns this pencil?”
He went on to explain that everything we have belongs to God. Now, my Dad didn’t talk about God a lot. He didn’t go to church every Sunday, nor did he serve on any committees, hold any positions, or ‘do’ anything at the church. Though his works were not evident to me as a small child, I’ve grown to realize he had more of a deep relationship with God than at first blush.
My Dad went on to say that the right way to live our lives is love in this order: God, Country, Family. “Do you mean that I’m down that far on the list?” I asked. What happened to ‘I love my little girl the most?”
He explained that we are to love God first and foremost in our lives. Everything else comes after that. I looked at my Mom as she turned around to look at me from the front seat, and she was shaking her head in agreement.
That was my first ah-huh moment, and it took a little while for it all to sink in. All of a sudden, the dots started connecting in a way that they hadn’t before. That’s why I go to Sunday School and Church to learn about God so that I love him, too. That’s why Mom and Dad get on their knees beside my bed every night as I say my prayers. That’s why we pray a blessing around our table every night at dinner time.
‘You Shall Have No Other Gods Before Me’ is the number one Commandment that I learned at Sunday School just about when ‘the conversation’ took place. Do we put God first in our lives?
Many other things in our lives can slip into that first spot if we’re not careful. It happens ever so subtly and almost without notice. Other people, our children, spouses, or other family members, may creep up to the top rung of the ladder. What are some of the other things that can become idols to us? Our jobs, positions, social status, money, possessions, out church, even the projects that we’re passionately involved in.
An idol becomes anything that we treasure more than anything else in this world. The love of God should be the driving force and purpose for our thoughts, words, and deeds. He wants to be central in our thinking, actions, plans, and feelings. Like me, others that plan the daily schedule tightly in our minds can turn them into an idol? Maybe so. It takes an intentional action to turn our day over to God when we awaken in the morning. I’m still working on this.
We are to look at Jesus’ life as an example of how we live our lives. Mark 1:35 tells us, ‘Before daybreak, the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.” He spent time alone with God regularly. He made it a priority to seek God’s advice before running headfirst into a busy day. What pressure would we take off of ourselves if we would do this? If we are to look at daily interruptions, or change of plans, as Jesus did, as the most important appointments of his day. Once we’re able to do that, it takes the burden off of our daily planning.
When John and I talked about marriage over 20 years ago, we both agreed that we wouldn’t be Number 1 in each other’s lives. That spot belonged to the One that brought us together. To this day, I’m very grateful for the fact that God is the top priority in John’s life, and I also know without a doubt that he is devoted to me. He is assured the same about me. We are both respectful of the alone time each of us needs, and we encourage that in one another.
‘You Shall Have No Other Gods Before Me”. It’s a good reminder for us in this world that is significantly focused on me, me, me.
I happily took my newfound pencil to school in my bookbag and used it every day. It was a small reminder of my Dad and the fundamental lesson He taught me that day.
Dear God, thank you for the teachings that we learn on ordinary days. Please help us keep our eyes and ears open for your instructions that will keep us on the path that you’ve chosen for our lives. Help us to hold things near and dear to us just a little looser so that you continue to be in the first place in our lives.