Remember the main thing

Wisdom is the ability to keep one’s priorities straight. A certain wise man I know is fond of saying, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” But what is the main thing?

Chad was 25, newly graduated with his MBA, and finding out that, while he thought he’d have the world by the tail, the current economic reality was that even college graduates were having a hard time finding jobs. He interviewed with several firms and was eventually hired. True, his boss did tend to be a bit tense, but Chad figured he could deal with that. He also figured he could deal with the fact that some kind of emergency always seemed to come up around 4:30 p.m. on Fridays that required him to work most weekends.

His fiancée, Trish, was understanding about his being so busy (or at least she seemed to be) and his parents hardly ever gave him a hard time about his not being able to come by for Sunday dinner — until the time when he forgot that Trish had gotten theater tickets and the day when he missed his own birthday party. Chad was pretty smart, but his priorities were definitely out of balance, so his parents and his fiancée decided it was time to have a talk with him. Lucky for them, Chad was wise enough to “… advance in the way of understanding.” He realized that just “having a job” wasn’t enough and he promised to begin an active search for something else. In accepting the first job that came along, Chad had forgotten to keep the main thing the main thing. In fact, he had almost forgotten what the main thing was.

“Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise …” Chad’s family saved him from having to learn the hard way the wisdom of keeping his priorities straight, but not everyone is so lucky. If someone were to look at your appointment calendar — or your checkbook — what would the person find? Do we keep the main thing the main thing? For that matter, what is the main thing in our lives?

Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister, retreat leader, spiritual director and published writer and poet.