There’s not always time to deal with every issue that comes up in the moment or when we might ideally like to address it. But while we don’t want to sweep important issues under the rug, there is wisdom in putting things on the shelf to deal with later.
To be sure, the issues of life don’t come to us packaged in neat boxes one after the other. We often have to deal with multiple things at the same time, and sometimes these experiences seem to conflict with each other.
For instance, we might be invited to a wedding around the same time a loved one recently died. And maybe it’s our kid’s birthday party while we’re going through a hard season in our marriage. Or perhaps it’s just simply showing up to work after caring for sick kids and aging parents.
Whatever it looks like, we’re often faced with many important issues at the same time. But while all this is taking place, we must still regularly focus on one thing at a time and put the rest on the shelf.
For example, weddings and birthdays are a time for celebration. This doesn’t deny the fact we might still be grieving or have to engage in many hard conversations. But, as best as we can, we put these feelings on the shelf and focus on the celebrating.
Putting things on the shelf is simply the discipline to focus our attention while minimizing cross-contamination. In short, it’s keeping issues in their proper place – not ignoring them but also not letting them dominate every area of life.
Of course, some things are big enough to demand our complete attention for a time. But more often than not we have to practice putting certain things on the shelf while the rest of life continues.
In the end, don’t sweep things under the rug and ignore the important issues of life. But remember there’s a time and place for everything and some things are best on the shelf until a more opportune time.