When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar… and the coffee.
A professor stood before his philosophy class with an assortment of items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large, 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 and the pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
The professor then 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 it into the jar. As it filled the empty space between the sand, the students laughed.
“Now”, said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to remember the important things- your God, 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, your car.
“The sand is everything else- the small stuff.
“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for 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 the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your wife out to dinner. Maybe even play another 18 holes of golf. There’s always 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 that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”
This thought-provoking email came to me from a friend. Let me add my own illustration of setting priorities.
I’ve sometimes directed my congregation to focus their attention on the cross hanging on the wall of the church behind me. I say to them, “Do you see it? Now keep your focus on the cross. Do you see the piano to your right? Do you see the organ to your left? Do you see the pulpit? Do you see me? So it is in life.” When the focus of our life is Christ and our desire it to glorify Him above all else, then all the other things of life will fall into proper perspective. We will not ignore our families nor our homes nor anything else that matters.
But if we focus on anything but Jesus, then Jesus will be crowded out.