All priorities need to be evaluated and checked against a metric of risk and reward, which vary in severity. For example: Is it worth the risk of back injury or death to go bungee jumping? Is it worth the risk of injury or death to drive a car? Is it worth the risk of humiliation to ask the cutest girl in class to the school dance? In any case, you either prioritize the risk or the reward. I am never going to hike Mt. Everest. The reward for me doesn’t even come close to the risk involved; so I prioritize that risk. I am not afraid that car accidents are one of the leadings causes of death, so I prioritize the reward of driving instead of walking everywhere.
Just as some risks are greater than others, most priorities have different time schemes: some of them are long-term, some are short-term. I will call these priorities “macro-priorities” and “micro-priorities.” We usually give great thought to the macro-priorities. But we don’t usually give thought to the micro-priorities. But maybe we should, since by doing something—literally anything—we are prioritizing that action at that exact moment over and against its risk factor. Furthermore, by doing something—literally anything—we are in that moment not doing something else, and therefore showing that the thing we are doing has a greater priority than the thing we are not doing—at least in that moment. Bear with me here.
When my alarm goes off in the morning, it is a greater priority for me to get up than to go back to sleep. When I get my coffee, it is a greater priority for me to make a big cup than a small cup. When I drive up to a stop sign, it is a greater priority for me depress the brake pedal than it is to press the gas pedal. When I eat lunch, it is a greater priority for me to chew and swallow my food than to simply stare at it. When I sit down to read a book, that book takes more priority than not reading it.
You get the idea. It sounds simple and obvious, but it still needs to be said. Why? Because our micro-priorities are fueled by our macro-priorities. It is no literal exaggeration that everything you do at any given moment takes a micro-priority over anything else that you are not doing. But the micro-priorities always—ALWAYS—serve the macro-priorities, and a risk/reward metric is still present. Life is greater than the sum of its parts, but every micro-priority has a reason, and every reason carries a risk.
So. I have a macro-priority of getting my kids to school and keeping my job, so I micro-prioritize getting up with my alarm clock. I have a macro-priority of being generally productive and avoiding the ennui that comes from inactivity and worthlessness, so I micro-prioritize things like making my bed and drinking coffee. The micro serves the macro, not the other way around. I don’t micro-prioritize watching what I eat because it’s fun to be hungry and unsatisfied right after supper; rather, the macro-priority of being healthy changes my micro-priorities that build up over time. The risk of not being healthy is greater than the joy of eating an entire bag of Doritos during the Super Bowl (even though I just did that), so I prioritize the reward of health over the risk of being hungry once in a while.
We should think about the micro-priorities because of the macro-priorities. “Begin with the end in mind,” says Franklin Covey. Your macro-priorities are nothing more than your consistent life goals, and nothing less than what values you hold dear.
St. Paul writes, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! … Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.” (1 Corinthians 9)
Woe to me if I do not micro-prioritize in a way that feeds the macro-priority of faith in Christ. Every micro-priority that fails to fuel the macro-priority is prioritizing the risk over the reward.
Let the reader understand. See you in church.