TITLE: The discipline of first things first
By Lesley-Anne Evans
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I had to apologise to my children yesterday after school. I have been home ‘sick’ for the past few days, and after my energy level began to pick up I found myself cleaning and tidying like I haven’t done in some time. And the only reason I can think of for the renewed interest in cleaning, is that I’m actually AT HOME.
My life as a homemaker is usually quite busy, and I don’t enjoy all of the chores that come with my job description. Many of my tasks are outside the home too, and most of those are more enjoyable. So, my days usually include a variety of things, from walking my dog, to helping in the classroom, to grocery shopping, to errands, and even the occasional coffee with friends. I have tried a number of different ways to accomplish my tasks in the home, both scheduled and non-scheduled. The scheduled approach is best for me, so that on Monday I know it’s laundry day. There isn’t any doubt that its laundry day, it just is. I don’t have to justify, rationalise or wonder, It’s just laundry on Monday.
Problem is, on monday I’m not always home for the day. And our laundry piles are pretty prolific. So, making it laundry day doesn’t get it done. Only being at home and working through it systematically gets it done.
So, this week, being at home and sick, reminded me that I haven’t been home enough. As my husband kindly reminds me from time to time, it’s all about balance. And when the scales are full of dirty clothes on one side and empty of clean ones on the other side, then that’s definitely not balance.
When I was home I saw other indications of unbalance in the form of cobwebs, burnt out light bulbs, grubby bathroom taps etc. And I felt badly for two reasons. One, that the job that I’ve been entrusted with isn’t being done to the best of my abilities, and two, that I’m setting a less than excellent example to my kids. How can I, with good conscience, tell them off for not making their beds, when I haven’t made mine.
So, my apology to my kids was for both of these reasons. I want them to know that I blow it some times, and that I’m human. But I also want them to know that our family values include doing our best, keeping our commitments, and meeting our responsibilities, even when it’s not fun stuff. Would I rather be out grocery shopping than scrubbing toilets - absolutely! Does the thought of 10 loads of laundry fill me with joy? Not really, but I do feel joy when the job is complete. Even if the hamper stays empty for only a few hours, I feel a certain sense of accomplishment at a job well done, t having given my best to the task, and at having been true to my commitment to care for my family.
Because I love words and the impact they have on me - they stick - I thought of a little line of words that I could think about when the lure of e-mail is greater than the messy kitchen. It’s simply this, “The discipline of first things first”.
The word discipline might not sit well with you. It’s received a bad rap, I think, as we immediately consider the negative connotations of disciplining our children, or the stern teacher disciplining students. But discipline has another side to it. It’s about choosing to do what you have already committed to. It’s about meeting priorities, even when they are not pleasant. It’s about choosing the important things over the needful things of the moment. It’s about lining up my behaviour with my values.
My spiritual life requires discipline. It’s so much easier to call up a friend for emotional support than to pray to my heavenly father. It’s easier to keep on doing chores and running errands than stop for a quiet time of reading, meditation, and praise. It’s so tempting to sleep in on sunday morning rather than joining together with God’s people for worship and teaching. You may think that choosing the latter in each case sounds like legalism, but for me anyway, the discipline combined with the desire allows me to make better choices. Better choices for me anyway. You will have to decide what’s ‘first’ in your own life.
Today was a good day. I chose to read my devotional before I started my day’s work. I chose to clean the kitchen before I answered personal e-mails. I chose to finish what I had started, before beginning a new project. Not martyrdom, simply honouring my priorities. Everyone’s will be different. But everyone has them. It’s a matter of sticking to them, and that does take discipline.
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