... How do I escape the "Tyranny of the Urgent"?
As I sit down at my keyboard to write this I am already past my deadline and frantic to email this article in to “The Spirit”. Even though I have a list of the deadlines for my columns taped to my computer, it is always so easy to put it off. I tell myself there is still plenty of time, then suddenly it's too late. Why does this happen? Why do we put off things we know are important? It's the TYRANNY OF THE URGENT!
Charles Hummel coined that phrase in 1967 and blamed the telephone as the greatest enemy of peace in our daily lives. Hummel quoted P. T. Forsyth who wrote in 1916 that "The worst sin is prayerlessness…..and the chief object of all prayer is to bring us to God" That's right, 1916! How the lives of Americans have changed in the last 100 years! We would probably welcome what we would consider the slow pace of the "old days". Today we carry phones in our ears as permanent fixtures, not to mention faxes, Email, voicemail, etc.
It's hard to think about fire safety when your house is full of smoke. We are faced each day with so many demands for the living of our daily lives that we put off those things which may be vital in the long run. The kids must get to school, the bills must be paid, the lawn must be cut, and on it goes….
A few years ago my wife Laura and I agreed that we needed to schedule time each week for our children, grandchildren and each other. I agreed to take Fridays off to spend the day with Laura, often doing nothing or going to garage sales. Each Tuesday Laura has dinner with her daughters, while each Wednesday I go to one of my daughter's homes to have dinner. These are special occasions not for what we actually do but because of the time that is set aside for one another. I cherish these "family" days and yet they are too often cancelled because something has "come up" that demands someone's attention. TYRANNY OF THE URGENT!
My body clock won't allow me to sleep past dawn any more. So I am up early this time of year. I tell myself that if I start at six in the morning I'll get a lot more done each day. I often rush out by 6:45am, but by 6:45pm there is still plenty left undone.
When I am waiting for the coffee maker each morning I am torn between checking my Email or checking in with God. I often make the wrong choice. My Bible sits on the table waiting while I tell myself I'll get to it later. I rarely do. Yet when I begin my day with scripture and prayer my day ALWAYS goes better. I don't get more done but I seem…I feel… more peaceful about what is left undone. Like so many bad choices we make, we know what is important, but we choose something else.
To escape the urgent we need to focus on the important. We know in our hearts what is important….. God, family, country…and in that order. Spending time with God helps me put all things in perspective, which in turn helps me make better choices. It's not easy, even St Paul struggled with this … "I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." Romans 14 & 15