My Values and Priorities

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When I was in college, one of my spiritual leaders advised me to write up my values and priorities, and I did so and wrote it up on my website. I've revised it a couple times since then, the most recent version from the summer of 2002. In the interest of eventually getting the best stuff from my old website to appear here and in the interest of not having to type up too much new stuff on a day when I seem tied to a sick kid who doesn't like anyone but me, I decided to use this as my 650th post. Don't assume that I actually live up to what I say in this, but when I'm most reflective on my life and my motivations are purest this is what I'm looking toward. I've changed a little this time around, but the main body of this is as it appears on the old site. Please excuse the bad jokes.

As a Christian, I think it's really fun to wait around on campus until I see a likely victim, then hide behind a tree until I can pounce out and tackle the person, ready to do the old "shove the Bible down the throat" maneuver. Of course, it's best when I can beat the person on the head with my very large Bible before I do the oral surgery part of the procedure. In all seriousness, I place the highest priority on my love for God. My chiefest concern in life is to develop in myself a love for God with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and all my strength. This is the most important command in the entire Hebrew Bible, being the first of the ten commandments. Jesus referred to it as the greatest commandment. He said the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. All the other commands in the Torah are summed up by these two -- love God and love people.

In my own life I have seen a few different ways I can begin to live in such a way. Because of the Good News of God's salvation, I have been taken out of my natural ways [which, believe me, if left on their own, would not be a good scene] to live as a child of God, and my desire is to serve him. My goal is to live in such a way that God is honored. That means living a life in the power of God, not on my own. It means being faithful to the responsibilities I have as a Christian to my brothers and sisters in the faith. It means representing God to those who do not believe. It means being a good steward of the riches God has given to me, in material goods, in all of my abilities and other ways he has gifted me, and in the opportunities he places in my path as he leads me through the incredible journey of my life, which he is building as a work of art.

As a result, my goal in philosophy is to seek truth and to learn to think well and rightly [and sometimes even leftly, but despite my natural left-handedness, I somehow ended up with a lack of handedness, so I try to think rightly more in order to recapture my right brain, which works with the left side of the body]. I happen to enjoy doing this anyway (thinking rightly, that is), and it often leads to much goofiness and quite a bit of strange ideas and behavior, but there is also the stodginess of academic learning, and that's fun, too, in its own way. Somehow, I've fallen in love with philosophy [which might seem redundant, since 'philosophy' means loving wisdom, so I just said I've fallen in love with loving wisdom -- but it's really just a second order love]. I hope to use philosophy for higher purposes than simply my own enjoyment of seeking out the mysteries of the universe, although I enjoy that immensely for its own sake. I hope to aid others in their pursuit of the beauty of all of God's creation through seeking to understand it. I love helping Christians to think clearly about their lives and to understand God and his creation, and I very much enjoy being a part of nonbelievers' processes of thinking about reality and truth, understanding what Christianity is all about, and considering the claims of Jesus Christ. It's also just fun to engage people who think differently in exciting and meaningful discussions about life, the universe, and everything. [It's sometimes even fun to engage people who think identically in boring and meaningless discussions about apathetic concerns, usual happenings, and nothing at all, but it certainly isn't as fulfilling or as worthwhile.]

Now that I have a family, that has become one of my chief priorities. I want to be a father and husband who demonstrates who God is to my family, reflecting God's character. The Christian scriptures (and there are certainly at least seeds of this in the Hebrew scriptures) teach that the marriage relationship was designed from the outset to reflect something about God. The Christian view of marriage is that its primary purpose is to reflect the relationship of Christ and the church and the relationship between the Father and the Son. This teaching is so beyond us that it's intimidating just to think about how I can represent this in my own marriage and how I can love my wife as Christ loved his people by giving himself up for them as fully as anyone can do. His giving of himself involved dying, not only physically but also spiritually, something no one else has done or will do until the time of the judgment. One biblical passage describes it as loving your wife as your own body, which suggests to me a kind of sensory expansion to include your wife's needs, concerns, and perspective, as if they were your own. I'm not very good at that, but it's commanded by God because it's such an incredible thing, and I want to seek to do that as much as I can. If I can do even a poor job of reflecting all Christ's love for his people in my marriage and family and loving my wife as I do my own body as if part of me, then I will exceed my hopes, but that's not because I have low standards. It's because the standard is so much higher than I can achieve without the power of God.

My goal in ministry in the long run is to help people to live lives that are pleasing to God. This means helping people to understand who God is and what he is all about. It means seeking to meet people's needs, helping them to grow in their love for God and their love for people, and helping them to fulfill their own role in God's created order. I believe that God is in the business of changing people's lives [I see it as a non-profit business, but I think God enjoys it enough to get some prophet from it], and I believe that part of my responsibility is to be one of his agents for change in the world [a pretty hefty responsibility that sometimes makes me want to cower in a closet somewhere hiding from the external world my senses tell me is real]. Of course, I am as much in need of change as anybody else, so I enjoy having this same input from others, but part of growing in my faith is helping others to grow in theirs. Two focal points of this fitting with my own abilities are using our minds to love God and using the music God created.

As for the life of the mind, it's worth noting that Jesus says we're to love God with all our being, and out of the four terms he uses to describe all our being, one of them is our mind. So part of loving God fully involves using our minds to the fullest. God has made my mind curious, relentless, and overly careful, and I like to put all that to good use. The philosophical stuff related to that is above. I also like to help others to think more carefully about their faith (if they are a believer) or about spiritual things in general (if they are not believers). I like to challenge people's thinking. I like to get into the deep spiritual things of the scriptures, some of which involves very careful study and serious meditation (not the meditation of lack of focus but the kind that dwells on a particular truth). This often leads me toward a more critical spirit, which can sometimes be bad, especially if I'm too willing to express it, but there is room for critically evaluating what we do and say, and I enjoy the troubleshooter role.

As for music, my goal has been to write music that shows these values and fulfills these purposes and to play music that is honoring to God in that it reflects my own heart's desires and that it helps others to honor God with their words and with their lives. Add to all that stuff the fact that I really like to be involved in making good music, and I think I've got all the requirements except the time to do it all. Check out some of my songs [I wish I had enough space to put more than lyrics online] to see how anti-prolific I have been in recent years. I really enjoy creating music, but other priorities have taken precedence recently.

1 Comments

Jeremy... this is a wonderful summation... your personal thoughts are most poignant... really. May God bless your desire to please Him. Be watching for "assignments" as you continue in humility to seek truth.

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