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February 1, 2008


A professor stood before his class and had some items in front of him.  When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.  He then asked the students if the jar was full.  They agreed that it was.

So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar.  He shook the jar lightly.  The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.  He then asked the students again if the jar was full.  They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar.  Of course, the sand filled up everything else.  He asked once more if the jar was full.  The students responded with a unanimous, "Yes."

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand.  The students laughed.

"Now," said the professor, as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.  The golf balls are the important things: God, your spouse, your children, your family, your children, your health, your friends, and your favorite passions - things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.  The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, and your car.  The sand is everything else - the small stuff.  If you put the sand into the jar first there’s no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.   The same goes for life.  If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important.  Pay attention to your relationship with God.  Play with your children.  Take your spouse out to dinner.  There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal.  Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter.  Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled.  "I'm glad you asked.  It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend."

A few years back someone sent me the above in an email.  Having a very driven AAA personality, which is easily overwhelmed and stressed out with the perceived scope of needs and urgent tasks, the above has stuck in my mind.

Jesus said, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (i.e. put God first), and all these things (what we really need  and not what we might be stressing out over) will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

Isn’t that true?  When we take of what is most important (our relationship with God) the other things seem to work themselves out - even our relationship with our spouse, children, family, etc.

The apostle Paul writes, “Be anxious for nothing…”  And then, knowing that we’ll be anxious anyway, he goes on, “but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)  Do you hear the priority in that?  God first.  In everything.  And when we hit a wall take it to God and rejoice, give thanks, because God has us covered.

Do I live like this every moment of every day?  Well… no.  Do you?  It is so easy to fall into the trap of misplaced priorities.  Isn’t it?  We even find ourselves stressing out because we’re stressing out.

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar.  Remember God - and seek Him first.