We had a family outing last weekend. The forecast was warm and sunny. I pulled out my favorite sandals from last summer and rushed out the door to enjoy the day. It was so great to be out in the sun. There were signs of hope and life all around in the lush green grass and flowering trees and bushes. As the day went on I noticed myself lagging behind a bit. My feet were starting to ache. I had forgotten that the soles of my sandals were worn. Later I noticed the old grippy treads were now smooth.
It occurred to me that sometimes my mind feels a little like that. Does that happen to you? It feels like everything is a blur and things just slide past that part of your brain that is supposed to remember things.
I think we all know the basics of good self care and realize how important it is. We need to sleep well, eat well, exercise, have a supportive community, and engage in meaningful service to others. All these things are so important and can certainly help our memory among other things but I want to tell you something. I have found that there is something else that is even more important to me. When I make this one thing a priority, in time, everything else falls into place.
It is so easy to get preoccupied with so many things. Life can bring us all over the place throughout the course of a day, physically and mentally. We may be worried or weary or worn. We all need some traction, some margin in our lives. We need to take care of our souls.
At the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew Jesus tells us the kind of person we are to be and how we are to live. Then he moves on to the heart of the matter saying, “ Seek first the kingdom of God…and all these other things will be added to you.” (Mt 6:33) We only find true rest for our bodies and clarity of mind after our soul, the very heart of who we are, has found rest and renewal in God. When we seek him first and foremost, all the others things will be added as well. We need to make God a priority —to set our hearts on him. But how do you do it?
We can be intentional and attentive. We can seek God first by finding a time and place to be with God. It can happen early in the morning or in the middle of your busy day. In fact, ideally, it’s both. Making God a priority simply means to be with Him. Eugene Peterson said it this way: “Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions.” (Mt 6:33, MSG)
We can be present with God. We don’t need special words to say. We don’t need an ideal time or place. We don’t need to have our act together. We don’t have to have unwavering faith or certain knowledge. We just have to come.
A reporter* once asked Mother Teresa how she prayed. Her answer was, “I don’t talk. I simply listen.” The interviewer then responded, “Ah, then what is it that God says to you when you pray?” Mother Teresa replied, “He also doesn’t talk. He also simply listens.” There was a long silence as the reporter tried to figure out what she was saying and how to respond. Finally, Mother Teresa said, “If you can’t understand the meaning of what I’ve just said, I’m sorry, but there’s no way I can explain it better.”
I think she was explaining what it means to seek first the kingdom of God. It means experiencing life with God. It means being with God as God is with you. This is how we care for our soul. This is how we find rest and renewal. This is how we are saved from ourselves, our preoccupations, our busyness, our worries, and our woes. As we are with God and God is with us, it changes us and the way we see ourselves and our situation. It’s the thing we need most of all.
* Dan Rather, CBS News