Is Your Jar Full?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, January 8, 2015 0 comments

by Steve Risner

God is really speaking to me about priorities. Many of my blog posts concern things that I, personally, am working through. My hope in writing about such things is that I'm not the only one dealing with it so maybe someone else can benefit as well. Exactly three days after I finished writing my post last week, A Year To Prioritize, our pastor preached a message on priorities. “Yes, Lord, I think I hear you knocking,” I said. Our pastor took a different approach than my writing from last week and got me to thinking. I decided another post would probably be beneficial—if not for you, then for me.

Thus begins our tale. The story goes that a professor was speaking to his philosophy class several years ago. He had at the front of the room a large jar and a variety of things he was going to place inside the jar—large rocks about 2 inches in size, gravel, and sand. Without a word, he places the 12 large rocks inside the jar until no more could fit. “Is the jar full?” he asked the class. The class confirmed it was, indeed, full. So he picked up a bag of gravel and began pouring it into the jar, breaking on occasion to shake the jar to settle the gravel. The gravel eventually filled in the empty spaces left between the larger rocks. “Is the jar full?” he asked a second time. With a bit of laughter, the students agreed that this time the jar was full this time. Now the professor picked up another bag—one full of sand—and began to scoop the sand into the jar. He did this until every visible space was obliterated. “I want you to recognize that this jar is your life. The larger rocks represent the truly important things in your life—family, health, God, whatever. These are the things that, if everything else was taken away, you would still have a meaningful life. The gravel is the other important things that matter to you in life—your job, your schooling or sports, that sort of thing. The sand is the stuff that is more or less material ‘stuff’ or the meaningless tasks you engage in. Pay close attention. If we were to first put the same amount of sand into an identical jar first, there would be no room for all the gravel and especially no room for the larger rocks.”

The point of this story is really simple and I'm sure you can identify with it. If we don't take care of the big things first, we'll never make room for them. As I stated in my post last week, we are such a distracted people. We have lights flashing and screens lit and devices buzzing to grab our attention all the time. We have games to play on the internet, our phones, our tablets, our TVs, and on the table. We can watch a video anywhere in the world, just about, and at any time we choose. We “pin” this and “#” that and “like” this and we lose sight of the big stuff. I feel many of us have filled our jars with sand so the gravel and the larger rocks are left in a heap somewhere else.

“Boy, I wish I'd tweeted just one more time,” is very likely not something many will say on their deathbeds. I know this because not 5 hours ago I sat with my brother-in-law, whose 33rd birthday is in February but his second battle with cancer seems it will end before then. When he and I sat and talked, he didn't tell me one more video game was the ticket or that another crazy night at the club would have completed his life. No. We talked about meaningful things—of being a good dad and investing in our kids. We talked about wrongs we'd done to each other and we made them right. We hugged and shared our love for each other. You see, priorities are exquisitely in focus when life's hourglass is dropping those last few precious bits of sand. No one yearns for the gravel or sand they had in their jar when life draws to a close. They reflect on the stones—the big ones that really mean something.

If you say that in 2015 getting closer to Jesus Christ is a big deal, I would suggest a few of those large stones should be reading His Word, a daily prayer time, and at least a weekly fellowship with other believers (that's going to church if you're not following). If your claim is to want to work on your relationship with your parents or someone else that is very important, there are certainly some large stones you can place in your jar before the gravel or sand that will help make that cultivation whole. If making sure you're as healthy as you can be is important, there are a few stones to place in your jar—eating right, not eating wrong, sleeping adequately, regular exercise, and stress relief. You can see just with these three important issues—your relationship with Christ, people, and yourself, you've got nearly all the stones in your jar taken care of. Once they're adequately placed in your jar, you can fill the jar with the lesser things that still are important, but not vital. You can decide what merits some of your time or money after you've taken care of these big things. Then, you can dump the sand in to your heart's content. But if you put the sand in first, you'll never fit all the big stones in at all.

Many of us, I fear, have our jars filled in reverse order. We say stuff like, “When I get the time...” or “When life slows down...” or “When I get the money...” but the truth is we're really saying that whatever I'm talking about is not as important as the stuff I'm currently doing. For example: “When I get free time in the day, I'll sit down in my room and pray” means you'll never do it unless you're in a crisis and it's your only option. But if you carve out the time and put it in the schedule, it'll get done. Then, if and when you have free time, you can fill it with the meaningless stuff you were doing before.

I hope this seems helpful to someone. Getting things in proper perspective is a job sometimes and, at least for a slow learner like myself, a job that often times needs repeated. Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom...” and I think we lose sight of that sometimes. All the other stuff will work out. Let's get 2015 off to a focused start. God bless you this year.