Bad Priorities

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark (HBO Documentary Films, 2020) is a true crime series, based on the bestselling book by the late Michelle McNamara, that investigates the mystery of the so-called Golden State Killer, an elusive criminal who wreaked havoc in the state of California in the second half of the twentieth century. The documentary is just as much about Michelle McNamara, an amateur detective, as it is about the sociopath who terrorized the state in the 1970s and 1980s. Though Michelle is a great writer and a great investigator, she becomes obsessed with the case she’s examining—so much so that her priorities go askew and she loses sight of what is most important in her life: her family and her health. It’s easy to let our priorities fall out of order. Often this happens unintentionally and subconsciously. Like Michelle, many of us allow our personal vocation to eclipse our personal formation; we let our calling, our work, and our passions take priority over our development, our being, and our relationships. God wants us to care more about who we are and who we are becoming—which involves selflessness, putting the needs of others before our own needs, and caring for others—than what we do for a living or what we produce. God cares more about our souls than about our careers, as important as they may be. This distinction is difficult to grasp when ministries and careers intermingle, which is why pastors, missionaries, and theologians have an especially difficult time recognizing when their priorities are beginning to fall out of order.