What matters most?

Recently, I endured a bit of “down time” as I recovered from surgery. My normal routine seldom provides much in the way of down time. I can’t say I enjoyed the experience, but it did have an up side: With time on my hands, I began to reflect on what matters most to me.

I’ve lived in interesting times. For much of my life, the United States has been at war, either directly or through proxies. We’ve experienced assassinations, recessions, economic booms, the communications revolution, scientific advances, a resurgence of various superstitions, the arrival of the multi-cultural society, massive changes in religious life, cultural/political divisions, and a slowly growing sense of our limitations.

The challenge of change never lets up. The pressure, I think, drives us too often to lose sight of what matters most. Instead, we get caught up in a whirlwind of reaction to change.

For example, many in my generation responded to changes in Baptist life by becoming denominational politicians, campaign managers and culture warriors. This happened to people on both sides of the Baptist debates. When the dust settled, “victors” and “losers” found themselves at a loss. Without an active theological/organizational war to fight, many felt disoriented.

Why? No doubt there were many reasons, but primary among them was that we had given our lives to something that turned out to be merely important. At the end of the day, we discovered we did not know what mattered most. Many of us have spent the subsequent years recapturing a personal sense of what matters most.

All of which brings me back to where I began. Down times provide an opportunity to discover or rediscover what matters most. In the past few days, I’ve rediscovered what matters most to me: a sense of resting in the sure love of God, my wife and family, a few deep friendships, knowing others pray for me, trusting others with the work of God and the church, and nurturing a sense of thankfulness for the gifts and opportunities God actually gives me.

My personal down time turned into a kind of spiritual retreat, and I emerged knowing better what matters most to me. May the same be true for all of us today and in the days to come.

Mike Smith is pastor of First Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn. He blogs at Thinking Out Loud: A Christian’s Reflections.

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