It’s easy, far too easy, to lose track of what matters.

It’s easy for lawyers and judges to lose track of justice. In modern-day legal systems (there’s more than one), career-building, deal-making, and system-gaming can push a concern for justice to the periphery and make winning central–just winning, no matter the cost to one’s character.

It’s easy for doctors and medical institutions to lose track of health. In the entanglements of the red-tape of insurance and Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements, under the pressure of aggressive marketing directly to patients by drug manufacturers, with the increasing threats of malpractice, in the face of patients who expect miracles, not medicine, and pressed by demands for constantly-rising institutional profits, healers and caregivers can forget that health—wholeness—is their profession.

It’s easy for educators to lose track of the pursuit of truth and the nurture of their students in the swirl of society’s pressure that they fill the gaps left by the unraveling of families and the fraying and coarsening of our culture. Educators often feel pressed to produce children who test well whether or not they learn much.

It’s easy for political leaders to lose track of the common good in the constant drive for the publicity, power and money that ensure reelection.

It’s easy for ministers to lose track of God’s salvation, the heart of which are God’s radically transforming love, justice and mercy. Too often, our focus is on building and maintaining a religious institution, on propping up the status quo, and on scratching the itches of would-be consumers of “spiritual” goods and services.

These days, I am aware of how, If we’re not paying careful and prayerful attention, we can lose track of what matters most amid the pressures, distractions, and anxieties of life. Secondary things become primary; major energy goes to minor concerns; pettiness overwhelms greatness, and we are left with jobs that are drudgery, homes that are lonely, communities that are harsh, and hearts that are empty.

It doesn’t have to be that way. But, to give primary energy to primary things requires alertness, awareness, and courage. I am persuaded that such qualities come from time away from the noise and confusion of our loud and busy lives—time to remember who we are and who God is, to recall what matters, to re-root our lives in prayer and thoughtfulness, and to reclaim our most central and important commitments.