I want it all to be this clear. Leadership involves priorities — determining them, declaring them, enforcing them, selling them, and even sometimes generally discombobulating them. Wouldn’t it be so nice (and I really only nod for 15 seconds until my brian reminds me of why this is not true) if someone just dictated priorities to us.
In Japan, a person knows whether he/she is expected to give up his/her seat on the bus not by some mystical set of cultural expectations but by this simple diagram. If your butt is in the seat and a person comes along who is carrying a small child, who is visibly pregnant, who is hunched over and carries a cane, or who has a casted/braced leg and is walking with a crutch, it’s time to relinquish said seat immediately. Seating priorities are clear. At least to a point. Sometimes a sign like this prompts me to think that I’d like all of life to be this simple.
Of course I already stated that my nodding ends pretty quickly. For two reasons.
First, a state where all these priorities are dictated in detail is not the kind of place I want to live. I spent a summer in the People’s Republic of China more than two decades ago and remember what it was like to have things dictated. Oh, you could choose whether to purchase a fan or not at the department store (if they had fans in stock and you had the yuan required) but there was only one fan from which to choose. How much of this was about China being of a certain political persuasion and how much was about China being more in the category of “developing” as a nation, I can’t tell. I just know that coming from the land of too many options, the lack of them was stifling at times.
When I was a child, I thought and reasoned as a child and my parents put up parameters so as to keep my childish thinking from being a danger to myself and others. As I grew up, those parameters widened and my opportunity for setting my own priorities increased.
All of that to say (somewhat metaphorically and un-specifically), I’m glad that I have the opportunity to participate in the process of setting and implementing and evaluating priorities. I consider that a privilege.
Second (because with a first there should at least be a second), I think we sometimes forget that God has set some pretty helpful priorities in place which should govern the prioritizing we do.
The New International Version of the Bible translates Micah 6:8 this way: “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God….” I like what Eugene Peterson does in The Message with this same verse: “But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously.”
So, once I get over my rant, I am reminded that God has given me everything I need (His Word, His Spririt, His Church and my heart & mind) to live a life of godliness. I simply (and it’s not so simple some of the time, I know) need to turn to Him for priorities and not to a decal on the window of a bus.