Is whats pulling at your sleeve for attention urgent or important? Is there a way to distinguish between the urgent and the important in order to live in an honest way "first things first"?
During a demanding phase of my work, the winter term being in full swing, I sat in my bed late at night resisting the temptation to skip the little reading project I was undertaking. I opened the book at the bookmark, turned the page and reached a quote by Mary Baker Eddy, a council to someone who had asked her advice:
“You can take my method, bar your doors, and then hold your solitude with moral dignity by meeting the merciless selfishness of callers with a fixed rule and the divine imperative Principle to be alone with God and never break this rule till you have your interval of study and prayer. I am an exception to all peace on earth – but not to “good will.” The mail and the male and the female claim undisputed powers to break my peace and rob me of all individual exemption from labor. But you have no need of thus surrendering your rights for others. I have written this in bed in the still hours while others sleep, - after 3 o.c. in the morning.” (Mary Baker Eddy is quoted in the biography by the Episcopalian minister Lyman Powell. Mary Baker Eddy: A Life Size Portrait. MacMillan 1930, p. 182)
Did she write this to somebody else, and not to me? I copied this note and considered and pondered it for the following days and weeks. I saw how I, too, could distinguish between the urgent and the important, how I could learn to find and keep my peace instead of surrendering to the needs of others - and still live an unselfish, gentle, giving life. The wisdom and wit stayed with me, too. Putting first things first - a decision, an attitude of service, loving what is important (or otherwise not pretend that it is).
Recently, the blogger Seth Godin wrote about urgent vs important and shared an insight that made me remember Mary Baker Eddy's note:
A six-year-old who throws a tantrum and refuses to go to school is escalating into the urgent.
Wow, Seth Godin, you are more metaphysical and spiritual than you probably know. You share solid wisdom, which is very real advice in the spiritual world, too. Taking care of the important things is effective, I get from both quotes, because it handles with authority the belief in opposing forces. In forces pulling at us and trying to tear us apart. Or forces pushing at us, instilling stress and pressure. Strain or stress, pulling or pushing. In humility we leave the mix and pull and push of "urgent or important", put first things first - and feel the warmth and grace of an ordered life.
Who is writing?
In my work as Christian Science practitioner and writer I draw on listening to God and listening to people.