Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Friend's Advice

Some 30 plus years ago I met a man while on a religious retreat. We were both from the same town and parish and so we stayed in touch with each other over the years. We didn't see each other often but when we did, there was a connection and we always had something to share that kept us in contact with each other.

He was about 20 years older than I was and one day I heard from a mutual friend that he was seriously ill and had been hospitalized. The prognosis for recovery was not good and I knew right away that I wanted to visit him as soon as I could. Somehow I had a feeling it might be the last opportunity I would have to share some time with him. As usual, it was good to see him and we reminisced about our retreat weekend so long ago, what it meant to both of us and how much we had each grown spiritually since that time. We shared deeply that day and I told him that before the retreat weekend I would have characterized my faith life as mechanical.  I meant that I went through the motions, did those things that were required of me by the church, but put forth no extra effort to become involved. My motives were pretty much self-centered. I knew my prayer life was not what it should be.

He told me one thing that afternoon that I have never forgotten and it indeed was very wise counsel. He said "I want you, my friend, to always remember that there are three important things in your life. Those things are:   God, family, and your profession. And, most importantly, never forget to keep them in that order because, if you don't, the problems you experience in life will be much more difficult to handle."

Our son recently shared in an e-mail message that " if we think we can get through this life without crosses to bear, we are sadly mistaken." How true! There are hills and valleys that we all encounter in our lives, but it is in the valleys that we grow and learn.

After leaving my friend that afternoon, I reflected on what he had said and over the next few days realized that that on many occasions I had indeed put my profession before my family. I did not always consider what a military re-assignment would mean for my family. I was focused on my career. Thank God that I had a wife who cared so much for me that she never complained when she was left behind to be both mother and father to our children. And where was God in this equation? Did I ever stop to ask God what he wanted me to do or what he thought was best for my family? No, because my priorities at that time were not in the right order - God first, family second, and my profession third.

And yes, it was the last time I saw my friend but from then on, I never forgot to prioritize my decisions and keep them in the right order. It has been amazing what a difference this has made in my life. I sometimes still struggle with some decisions but I always try to ask myself what God would want me to do and what would be the right thing to do. Now that I am retired, I no longer have to think about my profession and I know God has forgiven me for the times I did not turn to him first. Next to God, my family is the most important thing in my life and I ask his guidance when I am called to make decisions that affect my family.

I will be forever grateful to my friend for his words of wisdom and I pray that he was welcomed to his heavenly home with open arms.

Matthew, Chapter 6, Vs. 24: "You cannot be a slave to two masters. You will hate one and love the other. You cannot serve both God and money." & Vs. 33:"Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you."

prioritize your decisions

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