My roommate and I have a close friend whose dad died recently. We found out about two days after it had happened and rushed over to his dorm to see how he was doing. He was just sitting there…all by himself. Turns out we were the first people who had stopped to just sit, be still, and mourn with him. And it had been two days. He’d gotten a few text messages saying, “I’m praying for you.” Text messages…really? His dad just died.

It’s in moments like those that you wonder where our priorities are fixated. Education, projects, careers, hobbies, and the like become our focus. None of those are bad things to spend time on. We could probably even make a case for most of them being “our calling at this moment in life.” How dangerous it would be, though, to categorize them as our entire calling. I don’t know that a more egregious mistake could be made.

When you realize that people simply don’t know to stop, be still, and be there for people when they’re needed, you have to wonder if we really understand what life is all about, what our purpose is. Because it’s when you understand your purpose with the utmost clarity that you don’t allow anything to get in the way of it.

And so it is with Christ throughout the Gospel of John. Here’s someone who understands what his purpose is. Countless times the phrase “my time has not yet come” is uttered, referring to when Jesus would allow himself to fall into the hands of the Jews and Romans to be crucified. In chapter two at the wedding feast in Cana, Mary implies to Jesus that he should help out with the shortage of wine. He reminds her that his time has not yet come but helps anyway. Now, the Bible says Jesus came “to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). So…it wasn’t time for his crucifixion yet, his ultimate purpose. Doesn’t matter. He sees a need, and he stops and takes care of it. He sees people, stops, and shows them love.

And in this realization, Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:2 become more poignant than ever: “If I …can fathom all…knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”

I wonder what it would take for us to readjust our perspective, stop, and be there for what’s truly important…

Much love.

  1. Nels,
    True words. I admit that I am really bad at organizing my time and making the right priorities my main priorities. Often times I will spend a lot of time studying and working to get a good grade on a test in a class and I will be so excited that I had done so well. I will run to Logan, my fiance, and say “look how great I did on this test!” She will be happy that I did well, but will say something like, “Great! Now you can spend time on me again.”

    I just get a moment to say to myself that I did spend all my time on a test for school instead of making the person that I love feel appreciated. I have gotten into the habit of praying to be better at that. Here’s to continuing that prayer.

  2. Sarah Kyle said:


    I agree. It can be so easy to get caught up in the activities and schoolwork and career, and forget to be the person your friends and family need you to be…the person YOU need to be.

    I have this habit of committing to so many different things, and trying to give my all to each and every one of them, and then forget to just be still, even for five minutes.

    Thanks for the thoughts!

  3. Alex said:

    I feel that we fail to prioritize because it would involve us facing a number of our deep set fears and qualms of conscience. Often, we do not jump at the opportunity to aid someone in suffering because we know, perhaps subconsciously, that we would suffer ourselves. Jesus was hesitant to embrace and eventually embody the suffering of the world, so he secluded Himself and soberly said “not My will but Thine be done.”

    Instead of fleeing from the heavy task of organizing perspective, Jesus humbled Himself and made such time in the midst of His ministry. May we all do the same.

  4. Chuck Hendricks said:

    Do text messaging, facebook posts, etc. lessen the likelihood of spending face-to-face (side-by-side) time with friends? If they are a poor substitute for the personal touch and quiet “time together” that we all desperately need, do we need to be extra careful not to assume that electronic communication is enough to maintain a meaningful human relationship?

    • Nelson Shake said:

      I’m really glad you mentioned that, Chuck. What was so irritating for me when visiting my friend WAS the fact that he’d only received some text messages in response to his dad’s death. Now, could those people have been sincere? Sure…and I don’t doubt that some of them were. But when we assume that electronic devices (privy to facilitating “small talk”) are legitimate means to the end of “showing we care,” then there is a big problem at hand. Is technology useful? Most definitely…and thank God for it. But it seems to me that it should be limited also, for it is the ultimate paradox of our generation: that which can bring people worlds apart together in seconds also causes the personal relational side to deteriorate.

      What about the rest of you guys? Any thoughts on what Chuck brought up — the effect that technology has on this problem?

      • DiMy said:

        I’m afraid that we may be headed for a time when people no longer really know how to sit face to face and really speak to each other about important things. I have thought over and over about an incident that occurred while I was at HUG in Greece. I had FBed one of our current HUG students about a matter and after the second exchange he made the comment, “DiMy, if you come out your apartment door and look down, you will see my door just below you. I’m here….you don’t need to FB me… need to just talk to me.” I’ve never forgotten that and it has made the impression that whenever possible, I should TALK to people….face to face….instead of using the impersonality of technology.

  5. Martin Anderson said:

    that’s a good point… is easy for us as christians to get caught up in our own perceived spiritual priorities or goals, and to forget or under-appreciate those around us.

  6. Kevin C. said:

    The idea of having a specific “purpose” or one’s “ultimate calling in life” etc is really interesting to me in relation to simply “being a Christian” or “living a life of Christian ideals.” (Don’t ask why i’m using quotation marks- I really have no idea). It seems that when people are talking about a purpose or calling they are usually referring to some specific action or area of interest they feel compelled to. What is cool to me is the idea of how these two ends of the spectrum– the broader, big picture framework and the specific, single-area of concentration–interplay with each other. One’s passion for living as a Christian and working for the Kingdom of God directly feeds his/her specific calling/s in life, and vice versa. The small intimately informs the big, the big intimately guides the small, and they both evolve together. I love that!

    This comment was really horribly written and not well thought out- my apologies! They will get better, I hope.

    • Nelson Shake said:

      No worries about the jumbled thoughts, Kevin. What you said reminded me of something a friend and I were talking about the other day: I can go through life pretending that there’s some big goal (or several) down the road in life and work night and day to achieve them. But life is not about those accomplishments. Life is about what happens in the here and now and on the way to achieving those goals. For if all we do is focus on attaining something later on, we’ll arrive at it only to go, “What now?” and realize we ignored other things along the way, people and situations that may have been “less urgent” at the time, but still important.

  7. Robin Tucker said:

    I’ve thought about this “time” thing a lot since I’ve started doing more mission work, and “purpose” as well. Time passes so quickly, but slowing down and committing to the time I’ve spent trying to help others has been the greatest blessing ever! I think of Guatemala, and the time I spent just holding a baby who was having cleft lip/palate repair and was hungry because he couldn’t have anything to eat before surgery. Mom was crying because her baby was upset and she was scared for him…I took the baby from her and explained that I had three “ninos”, and as I walked the baby the crying stopped and the baby rested, and the mom got a smile on her face. I think about the day our surgery team stopped to pray with a man who found out his wife had cancer and wouldn’t live for long-he shared with us his faith in God and his hope for her eternal rest. He was comforted by the time we prayed. And in Poland, singing as a team and leading worship and watching the faces of those people being transformed as they connected to what having a relationship with Jesus means. Working at youth camp, and being able to have a teenager open up about the worry and fear of a family situation, and knowing you can’t rescue all of them (but you can sure pray with them!).

    These and many more meaningful moments have transformed my thoughts about time and purpose as a Christian. Isn’t that really what Jesus was trying to teach us? It’s the people who matter!

  8. Shera Darby said:

    Hey buddy,

    I think you’ve got a pretty insightful prof allowing you to fulfill this requirement with a blog. I think you’ll “learn” more than if you wrote a one-sided paper. As to your post for today, most people are hyper focused on “self.” Yeah, there are many people out there who do a lot of really nice things for others and are well-meaning but, as James purports, actions speak louder than words. Case in point, your example of your friend. It’s rare that you find someone who truly understands their God-given purpose while on this planet which is to … love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. If we can follow that commandment, the second one comes easily and naturally … to love your neighbor as yourself. Just my thoughts.

    Take care bud and tell your folks and Bennett hola para mi, por favor.

  9. I’m still digesting this post and fellow responses hours later after initially reading.

    Sometimes I think people avoid prioritizing to avoid the guilt of labeling something more important than others. In this situation, of course, attending to a friend in grief would be a higher priority than dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on homework.

    I think another struggle for people who value relationships is that they feel inept to relate to a person in grief if they themselves have no experienced it. We can create a bajillion excuses in our “concern for the wounded” when really when are concerned for our acceptance: “I haven’t seen him/her in awhile. Why would he/she want to see me now? I bet others are with him/her and he can’t see me now. etc” That goes back to what Shera said that many people are concerned about self even when they THINK they are concerned about others. Often, it is just enough to know that a person cares enough to check on a person, in person.

    What I am saying is that, like Jesus, we should show our compassion for people, regardless if we can completely relate to their current walk in life. Jesus was among “the lowest of the low” and to them, how could he possibly “understand” their situation when he was perfect, unblemished, and sinless? But what he showed them was compassion and a love that needed no prerequisite.

  10. Cindy Moser said:

    A book I’m reading (The Drama of the Bible, for Abraham Joseph’s class at TFC) talks about the various “stories” we base our lives around, the worldview we actually live by. The question comes up as to whether the culture is our real story, with Christianity as just an overlay, or if following Christ is truly our central worldview that gives us our purpose. I think the culture has a much stronger grip on us than we realize, and maybe we’re fooled into thinking we’re living with Christ at the center, when really we still have ourselves at the center, as culture teaches us.

  11. Sky said:

    I wonder if as Christians we have been struggling with our own identity crisis. We seem to hide behind impersonal obligations to “church” or “good deeds” which have the effect of reducing real, personal interaction to phrases like “I’m praying for you,” or “How are you?”. Too often these serve as placeholders preventing meaningful connection between people. Do we beat the sacred things in life to death with words or obligations? Do we let “doing Christianity” crowd out the person of Christ, the Reason for Christianity? Why can’t we simply be still with Him, or even a fellow person?

    When will we realize that Christianity is not a set of ideas, but a relationship?

    Nelson, I expect your words to aim true and to never be placeholders. I look forward to your thoughts, for they have often brought me back to the person of Christ. Do not let these blogs be anything less. You got the Love.

  12. Laura Joseph said:

    Good start to a thought-provoking blog! One thing come to mind… I have no idea if your friend was a white American, but in my experience with all sorts of internationals, so many other cultures reach out more quickly in such a situation than ours does. Why is that? The “be your own man”, gotta-be-independent/lean-on-no-one values that we inhale in the very air we breathe? As Christians we should value interdependence and practice community starkly differently than our surrounding culture, but it is often not the case. I think our independent life-styles contribute to our lack of reaching out in real time, in person, at a time like this.

  13. Kinda sad, but at least he has you guys as true friends.

  14. Jan said:

    OK – uncomfortable even reading this as it hits home. So much more comfortable in sending food, flowers, etc… Just giving of myself is too intimate. Good work, Nelson.

  15. Bennett Shake said:

    In response to Chuck’s post, I feel like technology is just one more thing to enable us to put on face and be a Pharisee…go through the actions without sincere love and care.

    On another thought, a lot of people are talking about our calling as Christians to love God and others, but how do we do that? I have heard people say how worthy or powerful God is, but that never stirred my heart to action or love before I received the Holy Spirit, so why would it now? Too often church services (in my opinion) end with the charge “now go out and do these things.” I do not see how that can call me to sincere love. As Paul said in Galatians 3:3 “After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” And frequently I hear the forgiveness of sins as the highlight of the gospel, but instead of love being created in my heart, I just feel the burden to not sin anymore. The only way our hearts can changed to love others is if we understand how He completely accepts us and loves us, not by anything we have done. We are now viewed as perfect, righteous in God’s sight; He views us as He views Christ, His own Son. He even adopts us as children as sons, and we are now heirs of all His kingdom and glory.

    I have heard some people say that we should submit to the Spirit, but I never knew what that actually meant until I really started learning about the gospel. By focusing, reflecting, and growing in understanding of His great love (for me, for you!) that is how we let the Spirit work through us. That is the only way I know to grow in sincere love.

    Of course the gospel is less powerful if you take away our sin. Yes, it is disobedience, but I would argue that sin can be obedience as well. If we think that we need something (whether it be obeying the rules or breaking them) to make our lives valuable, we are sinning by avoiding Christ’s salvation. This is very humbling to me because then the only way to genuinely love someone is by focusing on His love for me, not by anything I can do. Also, whether or not we achieve this “goal” in life, our lives will still be valuable because of Christ’s complete acceptance of us.

    This is the only way that moves me to real love, not a facade; to real concern for the wounded, and not just concern for our acceptance; to real, time-consuming compassion, not a casual text. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love,” Galatians 5:6.

    Those are my thoughts. Thanks for writing this, Nelson!

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