A lot of advice these days centers on setting priorities. Whether it's the need for a nation to define realistic objectives in foreign policy or individuals to balance demands of work, family, and personal development, the expert consensus seems to be, "You can't do everything, so decide what your priorities are and stick to them."
Sound counsel generally, but it's not always easy to rank what's most important when daily life isn't neat or static. Priorities have a way of shifting with the next demand or crisis—which points to the need for guideposts that remain relevant no matter how often the scene changes. When it comes to setting priorities for life, it's hard to improve on these: Love God with all your heart and soul. Love your neighbor as yourself.
In pursuing these goals, and in the spirit of fellow strivers, we offer a few ideas:
Loving each other is a priority that brings healthy, and increasingly graceful, perspective to everything we do.
A Sunday School class of preschoolers makes it a rule to begin each day with a cheerful "Good morning, God!" You can get more sophisticated, but the point is to make it a priority to gladly acknowledge God's presence early and often—as you would someone you love very much. This expression of love might take the simple form of a thank-you to the one Mind that causes all right thought, motive, and action in the universe. For example, Psalm 145 makes a wonderful prayer of thanks: "The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works. All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord; and thy saints shall bless thee" (verses 9, 10).
Natural, spontaneous love for the Father and Mother of all creation develops consistency and depth through a structured, though not a rigid, approach to prayer. Time spent studying God's Word renews inspiration. Familiarity with psalms, hymns, and other prayers gives us ideas to guide us any time of the day or night.
Love for God grows as we sincerely pray for it, and affirm that we have it, as this hymn does: "I am Thine, and I will be / Ever, only, all for Thee" (Christian Science Hymnal, No. 324).
This prayer also reveals another fact of our true nature: we aren't bound to anything ungodlike, such as selfishness, envy, or fear. When thoughts intrude that don't honor God, we can promptly and honestly deny that they have any hold on us, because we are His only.
Love your neighbor as yourself
A high-school student who works at a local bagel bakery says her goal is to treat every customer like her best friend. "In the few minutes I serve them, I try to give them the best experience possible, and a bagel just the way they like it," Alexis told me one day. Again, you can get more sophisticated, but the basic lesson is that loving each other is a priority that brings healthy, and increasingly graceful, perspective to everything we do.
To love our neighbor as ourselves is the command Jesus ranked next to loving God. Plunging to the deep meaning of such love, Sentinel founder Mary Baker Eddy writes, "... thou shalt recognize thyself as God's spiritual child only, and the true man and true woman, the all-harmonious 'male and female,' as of spiritual origin, God's reflection,—thus as children of one common Parent,—wherein and whereby Father, Mother, and child are the divine Principle and divine idea, even the divine 'Us'—one in good, and good in One" (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 18).
Striving to practice this kind of love for ourselves and our neighbors has the effect of bringing more evidence of Principle into our lives. Loving God and His idea before all else—the priority that guides all other priorities—helps us discern what our immediate task should be at a given time. Sticking to our priorities for life, we'll have the perspective to know what needs to be done and when.