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The Most Important Thing


An ancient proverb tells the story of a seeker who ventured deep into a dangerous woods looking for enlightenment from a wise guru. After barely escaping danger after danger, he finally made it to the guru’s sparse hut. He spent the next several days doing what the guru instructed, hoping to find the ultimate truth.

After several days of chopping wood, carrying water, tending fires, cooking meals, and cleaning floors, the seeker became frustrated. He asked the wise one, “When are you going to bestow on me the secrets of enlightenment?”

The thoughtful guru answered, “You have discovered the most important thing, and that is what is yours to do now. Keep doing the most important thing, and you will discover the secret of enlightenment.”

How true this is!

The most important thing is what is mine to do now.

How often we miss the most important thing which is in the now because we are looking for something else “more important” in the future.

This happened to me a few weeks ago.

I was on my way to direct my children’s choir at church. And I needed to get there. That was what I thought was the most important thing.

But, as I pulled up to the church, I noticed a homeless person on the street, eyeing me as I got out of my car.

Not only did this make me feel a bit uncomfortable, but I told myself, “You don’t have time to stop. You’re on your way to church. To do something important. You need to move on quickly.”

However, the man called out to me as I passed, “Can I show you my necklace?”

You can imagine that I really was not intrinsically interested in his necklace. But, a nudge of my compassionate conscience got the better of me, and I stopped. I decided if I was going to be delayed, I would make the delay worthy.

I took a deep breath in a conscious attempt to center myself, and looked fully into his eyes. I could see his eyes sparkle with great delight that I had stopped to talk with him.

At that moment, I really meant what I said when I answered, “Yes. I’d like to see your necklace.”

He lifted up the collar of his shirt to show me his necklace. And, there it was. Spectacularly colorful. One of the most beautiful butterflies I likely have ever seen. On a cord, around a homeless man’s neck.

He would not have known that I viewed butterflies as a connection with my husband who had passed away a year earlier. He had no way of knowing that I saw butterflies as an eternal connection between earth and eternity. A personal symbol of resurrection and new life.

As I lingered on the beauty of the butterfly, I was so stunned that I literally could not speak. I could barely breathe as I took in the hallowedness of the moment.

And to think that I almost missed it.

He was doing the most important thing. What was his to do in the now.

I almost missed mine.

A sacred encounter that was right in front of me. Mine to do. The most important thing.

And I almost missed it.

The Biblical parable of the “Good Samaritan” tells a comparable story. The religious people all passed by a suffering person because they were too busy to tend to his needs. After all, they were important. They had more pressing obligations. Or so they thought.

I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences. Times when you missed the most important thing. And times when you captured it. Right in front of you. The now moment.

Caring for your children or grandchildren. Serving at your job. Being a friend. Soothing a hurt. Bringing laughter to a difficult moment. Loving yourself.

Chopping wood, carrying water, tending fires, cooking meals, and cleaning floors.

The most important thing. Right in front of us.

Let’s not miss it again.

The Experiment: Seek today to do your most important thing. You’ll know what it is because likely it will be the thing that is right in front of you. What is yours to do now.

Silence Your Inner Critic: Your thoughts will tell you that you don’t have time to do what is in front of you. Something more important awaits. Let those thoughts float past you, and stop and do it anyway. You will be blessed in the doing. And others will benefit as well.

Rock Our World with Your Comments: What was your most important thing to do today? Write your thoughts in a personal journal, discuss with a friend or family member, or post a comment below or on our Facebook page. We thrive and grow with your input!

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