A professor stood before his class with items on the table in front of him. When the class began, he picked up a large and empty mayonnaise jar and filled it with rocks, about 2 inches in diameter. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

Then the professor picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. Of course, the pebbles rolled into the open areas between the rocks. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. The sand filled up everything else. He then asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “yes.”

“Now,” said the professor, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The rocks are the important things — your family, your partner, your health and your children — things that if you lost everything else and only they remained, your life would still be whole. 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, there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same applies to your life.

“If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the essential things. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take your partner dancing. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, have a dinner party or fix the disposal. Take care of the rocks first — the things that matter. Set your priorities. After all, the rest is just sand.”

Consider this. All it takes is one shaping event, one bad medical report, one significant failure or one person you love who just died to discover what matters in life. Don’t let the small stuff take up your time, energy and resources. An unknown author of this story notes, “Refuse to fight small battles with petty people. Your life is bigger and better than that.”

Melchor Kim says, “Truthfully, the most important thing in life is knowing what the most important things in life are and prioritizing them accordingly. Maturity is not when we start speaking big things. It is when we start understanding small things.” Suman Rai says, “When we start to recognize that we don’t have all the time in the world, we see our priorities most clearly.”

Recently, my friend Dick Knights and I were fishing. He made an observation that refocused my priorities. He noted these current COVID-19 times have revealed that most people are obsessed with their physical health but not their spiritual health. They will do anything to preserve their physical lives and do next to nothing about preserving their spiritual lives. We humans are a spirit, we have a soul and we live in a body. Our bodies will die, but our spirit lives forever. Don’t allow earthly stuff to crowd out heavenly stuff.      

In many ways, the entire life of Jesus was about setting priorities and adhering to them. When He said “Let the dead bury the dead” to the excuse-filled man, He was speaking about the wisdom of not being distracted from the most critical issues in life, even in those emergencies that claim our attention (Matthew 6:3). In other words, get your priorities straight, and everything else will fall into place. Give your time, energy and resources to the matters that matter. Don’t fear failure. Instead, fear succeeding at something that doesn’t matter. That’s sand when it could have been a rock.

As a society, we’ve conquered outer space but not our inner space. Your spiritual life or inner life is a rock issue. According to the Scriptures, your spiritual life depends on where you will spend your eternal life. We humans don’t always have our best interests in mind. Let’s change that. Let’s make our inner space at least as necessary as our outer space.  

Here’s some wisdom about spiritual and physical health. “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” Do you see that? God wants you to be healthy in your soul and body. We need peace with God to have the peace of God. What good is it if we have health in our body but not in our soul and spirit?  

God doesn’t want something from us. God wants something for us. Maybe it’s time for us to remove the mask off our spiritual face by believing in God, Jesus and eternal life. St. Augustine once said: Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.

And that’s how you conquer inner space. That rocks!