With the new year upon us, I’ve been thinking a lot about keeping first things first. It’s so hard when the tyranny of the urgent pulls us in all sorts of directions, and we go to sleep each night wondering where the day went. But we all know that if we don’t keep first things first, we’re going to have a lot of regrets at the end of our lives. We’re all going to have some, but ideally we’ve done our best to minimize their quantity and impact.

I’m not sure whether you make New Year’s Resolutions in your head or written down on paper (you can see my thoughts on those here). But you probably have some sort of goals, hopes, and dreams for 2021. That is awesome. I absolutely want you to approach the new year with intentionality, because each day is actually quite precious and shouldn’t be wasted. I’m going to do the same, but I have felt so strongly over the last few weeks that I need to keep first things first in one simple but challenging way: put God front and center of it all.

When I’ve had fitness goals, it’s relatively easy for me to keep faithful in showing up and doing the workouts. But I am ashamed to admit that sometimes I’ve placed God on the backburner just so I could keep up my workout streak. I’ve neglected to spend time with Him, made excuses and rationalizations, and just made fitness into something of an idol, something that each day mattered more to me. Inevitably, I’ve gotten injured. Now, God is not injuring me to force me to come back to Him because He is love and doesn’t work in passive-aggressive ways. But it’s been a sobering reminder that I need to keep first things first.

When I’ve had work-related goals, it’s relatively easy for me to just isolate myself and buckle down for hours and hours (staying up late, waking up early, denying myself any “fun”) to do what I need to do. Typically, these types of goals take hundreds of hours and weeks or even months of work, but they get done. However, here too I am occasionally apt to disregard my need for, and commitment to, Him. This leaves me in a rough place. I get cranky, I get writer’s block, I deal with random coding issues, I can’t think quickly on my feet, I’m the opposite of articulate, and I can’t figure stuff out. Things are bogged down and bottled up. I’m not in a flow state. Instead, I’m sputtering and kind of miserable. I’ve gotten a lot better in this area to keep God front and center, and deeply realize my dependence on Him for ideas and answers and even the best sentence structure! Heck, even before I write these blogs, I ask Him for help because I know I need Him to be the leader of it all. I just need to keep first things first whenever I work on anything, no matter what.

I get cranky, I get writer’s block, I deal with random coding issues, I can’t think quickly on my feet, I’m the opposite of articulate, and I can’t figure stuff out. Things are bogged down and bottled up. I’m not in a flow state. Instead, I’m sputtering and kind of miserable.

With Rachel and the kiddos, they are pretty easy to love and serve. And frankly they are so dang cute, and that helps a lot. But I do get exhausted somewhat often (because of the toddlers’ constant needs, not Rachel’s) and we don’t get a lot of sleep and as such the days (and nights) are currently brutal. In these moments, I rise up and be the man and husband and father I need to be out of sheer willpower and the remembrance of my commitment. But it’s a lot of pouring out and not a lot of me being filled up – which can eventually lead to a deep, dark place full of sadness, resentment, and apathy if not addressed. But if I keep first things first, I am spending time with God and He is encouraging me with His presence and words and love. He’s giving me unique ideas of ways to love Rachel and Maya and Ravi that I would never have come up with myself. He’s pointing out needs and telling me exactly how to thoughtfully meet them. He’s opening my eyes to how beautiful each member of my family is, externally and internally. He’s reinvigorating me with dreams for our collective future, and filling me up with anticipation and expectation. And He is giving me the strength and energy I need through the Holy Spirit.

In this next year, I implore you to keep first things first. I promise it will make such a difference. You’ll have to commit to it, and you’ll have to do all you can to get back on track when you come off the rails, but it’s so worth it. I have lived enough suboptimal years to know that it’s not an option for me; it’s a must. If you feel the same, join me and we’ll do this thing together. With Him front and center, I am genuinely excited as to what the new year will bring. My sincere hope is that you are too.

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