Ordering Your Life

“What’s in the box?” the business consultant asked the executives. He gestured to the piece of paper in front of him, where he’d drawn a box.

feet up in a field

He explained that only one thing can go in the box, and we choose what to put in it. Whatever’s in the box, everything else serves it. Work and family can both be important, he says, but only one can go in the box, and the other serves it. So if work is in the box, family is there for work, but if family is in the box, work is there for the sake of family. He told them if they can’t decide what’s in the box, they have no purpose running a business.

“What’s in the box?” he asked the executives.

I think many of us don’t put anything in the box, we just let life happen. Or perhaps procrastination is in the box, or perhaps “doing what’s urgent” is in the box. Or perhaps grades, achievement, pleasure, comfort, money, or status go in the box. All sorts of things could go in the box, leading to a vastly different life.

“What is your day ordered towards?” asked a speaker at a conference I attended. I was floored by the question. I had no answer. He talked about how it wasn’t good enough to do the right things, there had to be an order to it. One example he brought up was prayer: it’s not enough to say prayers and take a checklist mentality towards prayer, but rather our whole day must be ordered towards prayer. It doesn’t mean we have to pray constantly, but there is an order, a structure.

Well shoot. Just when I thought I was doing so well.

Work is ordered towards rest

In Jewish thought, the week revolves around the Sabbath rest, participating in God’s resting from creation on the seventh day. In Greek thought, the goddess Hesuchia was the rest entitled to a victor after accomplishing. Work and achievement aren’t ends in themselves, but a means to leisure.

Most people, myself included, forget these points. Either we have rest without work, which leads to boredom, or work without rest, which leads to burnout. I don’t like boredom or burnout, and I suspect you don’t either, which means we need to do something different.

Rest is ordered towards worship

Even our rest isn’t an end in itself, but rather builds us up, re-creating us, enabling us to worship God and serve Him present in our neighbors. Without rest, those are impossible. So, rest serves worship.

If rest is ordered towards worship, then it’d make sense for that to play out on various lengths of time: day, week, year, whole life.

If work is ordered towards rest and rest is ordered towards worship, it means:

  • The day is ordered towards prayer
  • The week is ordered towards the Sabbath (want tips on how to live out the Sabbath?)
  • The year is ordered towards the various feasts in the liturgical calendar, chief of which is the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus
  • Life is ordered towards heaven

As for the last point, Jesus defines heaven as a relationship with the Trinity (John 17:3), so ordering life towards heaven means ordering life towards a relationship with God. Not only is it a relationship for eternal life, but also here and now is the “more abundant life” Jesus promises in John 10:10.

“What’s in the box?”

For your life, whatever is currently in the box, it doesn’t have to stay that way. You can choose what to put in the box, what to order your life towards.

Join the conversation: What’s in the box? And what are you going to do about it? Join the conversation on social media or in the comments below, I’d love to see what everyone ends up choosing. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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One thought on “Ordering Your Life

  1. In my box are personal achievements. But I know God should be in the box. Hmm, maybe a good follow-up article topic could be how to change what you put in the box. To order my life toward God instead of personal achievements, I could briefly pray, “I offer this up to you, God,” after I accomplish something.