Tyranny of the Urgent

tyrannysmallThe path I take on my morning walk while living in rural Mexico takes me by a set of trees one of which is alive while the other is dead. Even in death the barren tree added beauty to the landscape with its branches gnarled this way and that way into the mountain air.

I was disappointed one day when coming upon the two trees to find that someone had amputated the artful branches of the dead tree. It stood there, a grotesque remnant of the picturesque tree it had been, a few large limbs remaining, but the smaller artistically curved branches were gone.

I could guess the reason for the desecration of the tree: the need for firewood. I often meet people along the path carting collected dead branches toward home where they use them to stoke a fire for cooking. Fuel for a cooking fire takes precedence over nature’s art, an example of the tyranny of the urgent.

The tyranny of the urgent plagues every facet of human life. The urgent usually is important (like finding wood with which to cook the next meal), but it often distracts us from focusing on equally important or even more important issues that aren’t making an immediate demand on us.

We can neglect a marriage, family, or friendship because we’re so busy with work. We can put off dealing with a specific problem because another problem is screaming for attention.

Our relationship with God is another area where the tyranny of the urgent comes into play. Day to day living demands so much of our attention that we have little time to focus on God who doesn’t intrude on us or shout for our attention. Experiencing God means being intentional in seeking Him out, getting quiet to sense His presence, and determining to look at an issue from the perspective of a faith in Him.

The artistic tree now is but an ugly collection of sprawling stumps, amputated of its artful branches, a victim of the tyranny of a more urgent need. Yes, some of the most important aspects of life, the parts that add real beauty and meaning to our existence, can succumb to the tyranny of something that seems more urgent. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way, when we determine to make the important, but less urgent, of urgent concern!

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Jesus, in Matthew 6:31-33)


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