Something has troubled me for years. I’d call it incomplete priorities. I hadn’t thought about it for a while. But I often thought about it as I’ve reflected on my hopes for our children, and as I’ve listened to parents talk about their hopes for their children. Our hopes and their expressed hopes often focus on a good education and gainful employment. Certainly those are worthy, needed priories. But there’s something more foundational we need to talk about.
What has troubled me was awakened recently in reading Augustine’s Confessions. Lest you think that is a contemporary confessional, autobiographical, tell-all, book, Augustine lived from 354 to 430. A long time ago, he was troubled by what has troubled me.
Augustine wrote as if conversing with God. Pardon the 400 A.D. language.
“No one had anything but praise for my father who, despite his slender resources, was ready to provide his son with all that was needed to enable him to travel so far for the purpose of study. . . . Yet this same father of mine took no trouble at all to see how I was growing in your sight or whether I was chaste or not. He cared only that I should have a fertile tongue, leaving my heart to bear none of your fruits, my God, though you are the only Master, true and good, of its husbandry.” – Confessions (Classics)” by Augustine, R. Pine-Coffin
Augustine’s father was ready to do whatever it took – money, effort, you name it – to get his son a good education, but had no concern for his son’s spiritual formation. I’m troubled too when I get material, “worldly” concerns out of order with spiritual concerns for our children or grandchildren, or when I hear others misplacing such priorities. There is always a certain rightness about getting those back in a healthy order.
Education is a major priority. Lack of education contributes to mistreating or disregarding women and children in particular, a strong argument for me, let alone the doors it opens. But a priority objective for a growing relationship with God, integrated with life and a developing Christian world-view, makes a complete package.
Augustine noted other priorities that fell short.
“O Lord my God, be patient, as you always are, with the men of this world as you watch them and see how strictly they obey the rules of grammar which have been handed down to them, and yet ignore the eternal rules of everlasting salvation which they have received from you.” (Augustine’s Confessions, Loc 688-700)
Grammar is important. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to get it right! There’s just more to life than good grammar.
Augustine’s bewilderment continued.
“A man who has learnt the traditional rules of pronunciation, or teaches them to others, gives greater scandal if he breaks them by dropping the aitch [the letter H] from ‘human being’ [saying uman, rather then human] than if he breaks your rules and hates another human, his fellow man. . . .”
(Augustine’s Confessions, Loc 688-700)
Is hating someone worse than wrongly pronouncing a word? Absolutely. I know immediately when I have spoken unkindly to someone, no matter how well I pronounced each word I said. Let’s teach our children to learn proper pronunciation and to speak well. Let’s show them the greatest priority, however, is loving others.
Where do you focus your hopes for your daughters and/or sons? I find I need to reorder those hopes periodically. They easily get out of order. It takes a lot of reflection and prayer-directed wisdom to keep our hopes in the right order. First let’s work to keep them in the right order in our own lives. Then let’s pray, encourage, live as good examples, influence and hope, as we keep surrendering our children and grandchildren to God. By God’s grace we can have complete priorities.