But First, Extinguish the Fires

By Gena Anderson

This season I have put aspirations and dreams on the back burner in lieu of more pressing obligations. In truth, this generally happens more often than I would prefer. I am a planner and a doer, and my well thought out plans are often interrupted by God, life, or maybe even my dog, as was the case this morning as my quiet time on the patio was paused to bathe a wet, muddy dog.

We have to expect interruptions to some extent. As a nurse and a mom I am no stranger to the concept of stopping what you are doing to address something urgent. But sometimes I become discouraged, feeling like I should be further along. I see what I want to accomplish in ministry, the church, my marriage, and my profession, and it’s hard not to be disappointed if I am not at least moving forward. I see the potential in my children and wonder if we are spending too much time just surviving each challenge and not enough time cultivating their hearts and minds for the future. Treasured friendships are put on the backburner too often in order to fulfill present obligations. In all this, I wonder if my good intentions will ever materialize with more frequency than the ever present fulfillment of priorities.

Will I ever be making waves more than I am putting out fires?

As this question was ruminating in my mind and stirring my heart I read in Paul’s letter a verse he wrote to his friend in ministry that calmed my angst. 

Let our people learn to devote themselves to good works for pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful, Titus 3:14.

We have to be available for urgent needs. They are so important we should plan for and expect them. Paul says we should even devote ourselves to pressing needs, so that our ministry and the things we are trying to accomplish will not be meaningless and ineffective. This is not to minimize long term planning and dreams, but it does point out the need to prioritize the interruptions, and it encouraged me to look at them differently. Pressing needs that arise suddenly are not the dampener that is slowing our progress in our real purpose. They are the thing God wants to use us to dampen right now. In fact, they just might produce the fruit needed to nourish and sustain us, and those around us, so that we can go forward to do bigger and better things tomorrow. 

Pressing needs are opportunities to be fruitful, not interruptions. Next time we feel interrupted we would do well to remember Paul’s words, and devote ourselves to what takes priority, because if we don’t we will miss the fruit of those works. So, go ahead and put out the fires first. Pause what feels like important work for the unexpected urgency. The same God who put them in your path has surely equipped you with the tools to dampen them, and will often allow you to witness him extinguish them entirely. And he will no doubt use the fruit produced for good.

Lord willing, the waves will eventually come. But we sure can’t be ready for them if the fires are still burning.

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