When the right priorities are in the right order, everything else falls into place.
This is what my life looks like when I don't make or stick to priorities:
I set my alarm for 5:00am, and wake up instead at 7:30am. I don't just check Instagram first thing in the morning, I rabbit hole down it, and end up closely examining the magazine-quality feed of a woman who has three small children. I do this for an hour while my children scatter Cheerios throughout the house.
When I finally drag myself out of bed at 8:30am, I'm tired, hungry, and the word, "failure" keeps banging around in my head. I realize this is a natural response to what I just witnessed on Instagram, and I attempt to salvage my day by going for a quick walk before my husband leaves for work.
The walk is lovely, but I spend most of it adding up how many more hours I need to work this week, dreading my kids' unruliness, and trying to deliver myself from "failure."
When I get home, after I've made breakfast for everyone, I sit down at my computer. Unsure where to begin, I check Facebook, and emerge from my distracted, exhausted stupor even more angsty than I began. I don't know where to start, I don't know what to do, I just know--I'm behind.
This is what my life looks like when I've prioritized what matters:
My alarm goes off at 5am, and I mumble the verse about the Lord giving sleep to his children, and I lay my head back on the pillow.
I wake up again with the kids around 7:30am and before getting out of bed, I pull up I Come Quietly to Meet You on my Kindle and read a devotion. The responsibilities before me weigh heavily on me, but as I read Amy Carmichael's clarion call to trust Jesus like a small child, I relax. My husband makes breakfast for the kids, and I work for a few hours while I listen to worship music. The overwhelm is near, but it's not crushing, so I can focus. I can get some things done. I realize I am tired--I put a show on for the kids and take a long shower. I blog, and I feel alive because it's work I love doing.
My days unfold like the above.
They're generally peaceful and happy, or they're genuinely crushing. The difference isn't my children's attitudes, my wakeup time, my exercise, my diet, or any one of a thousand other factors. It's whether, this day, I've taken up my cross.
It is ludicrous that the lifting of two heavy beams might be lighter than air, but Christian logic has never professed to be human logic.
Somehow, when I pick up the right burden first, I barely feel the weight of my children, my work, my ministry, my marriage, or my home. In fact, they become joyful. But when I pick up those "small" bundles first, and neglect my cross, or try to stuff it on last, the small burdens become dark holes, whirling me miserably in their wretched orbits.
To suspend your belief in the seen and the logical--to believe much can be made out of so little--is to submit your human will to something greater than yourself.
But it is the only way to happiness.
Peace is not a formula or a checklist, it is a person. We inevitably and everlastingly find this person of peace will carry the lion's share of those beams with unflinching and unwavering strength. To the extent that we find, when we look back, that our only burdens were those self-imposed ones, and that our gladdest moments and days and years blossomed into being when we reached for our cross before anything else.