Of Rocks and Jars

I once heard a lecture – probably many of you have as well – discussing prioritization. The lecturer said that our time is akin to a jar, and the things we must do are akin to rocks. If we are to do the things we must do, we must put the big rocks – our biggest priorities – in first, otherwise, they’ll never fit.

Sometimes, it seems as if we’d like to trade up for bigger jars, or perhaps trade in for smaller rocks – yet it never seems possible to do so. I’ve got lots of rocks: family; health; books to edit; books to write; stories to follow up with online; and this new wonderful world of the “Platform.” I’m sure you all have plenty of rocks as well, and I’m equally certain that you spend as much time as I do wishing for different rocks and jars.

But my dad once told me something that has always stuck with me. He said that if everyone in the world took all of their troubles to one central location and piled them up on one great big heap, and if we could all choose whatever problems we liked – we’d all pick up our own problems again and go home. And you know what? I think he’s right.

And so it comes to this – finding a way to make peace with our own rocks and jars. In the end, perhaps some of our rocks got there by accident… not of our own doing. But largely, we helped get them there. We chose our own rocks. So why not be grateful for them? And if, each day, there are too many rocks – set the ones aside that don’t fit, and pick them up and try again tomorrow, remembering that, along our own paths, we stopped to pick up each and every one of those rocks, loving them for something specific. This one for its shape, that one for its shine, and so on. Enjoy your rocks – don’t complain over them. And if they grow too heavy – discard the ones you can. Don’t mistake me – I’m not advocating leaving your children by the side of the road. I’m merely saying that for the most part, troubles that we pick up along the way can, in some form, be set down again if we choose.

We have a saying in this family: “Take what you want – and pay for it.” There’s another way of saying that – “Take what you want – but pay for it.” It means that we each make our choices, but every choice comes with consequences. As we grow, and as we learn, we must accept both the good – the ‘and’ – and the bad – the ‘but.’ And then, we move forward, trying to remember that largely, our paths have not been thrust upon us, but chosen as we proceeded – and, for us, guided by our God. Perhaps that is true for you, and perhaps not, but hopefully you do not see your life as a random accumulation of events.

Today, I encourage you to look at your priorities. Take the ones you enjoy, whether you see them as burdens or not, and thrust them joyfully into your jar. And the ones you can do without? Cast them aside to make room for the rocks that lie upon the path ahead.