If you have never read Gordon McDonald’s book, Ordering Your Private World, do yourself and everyone you encounter a favor… go buy it, read it, and begin practicing what he teaches.
McDonald suggests that each of us have “two worlds”: 1) our public world, and 2) our private world.
Our public worlds are filled with a seeming infinity of demands upon our time, our loyalties, our money, and our energies. And because these public worlds of ours are so visible, so real, we have to struggle to ignore all their seductions and demands. They scream for our attention and action.
But there is a private world in every one of us. A world that may be as infinite in size as we perceive our public worlds to be. But often the private world – like the depths of the ocean – remains unexplored, full of surprises, ambushes, emotions, and dreams.
A few pages later he makes an observation that sets up the whole book,
He quotes Wayne Muller, “The busier we are, the more important we seem to ourselves and, we imagine, to others. To be unavailable to our friends and family, to be unable to find time for the sunset (or even to know the sun has set at all), to whiz through our obligations without time for a single mindful breath, this has become the model of a succesfull life.”
Our Western cultural values have helped to blind us to this tendency. We are naively inclined to believe that the most publicly active person is the most privately spiritual. We assume that the larger the church, the greater the heavenly blessing. The more information about the Bible a person possesses, we think, the closer he or she must be to God.
Because we tend to think like this, there is the temptation to give imbalanced attention to our public worlds at the expense of the private. More programs, more meetings, more learning experiences, more relationships, more busyness; until it all becomes so heavy at the surface of life that the whole thing trembles on the verge of collapse. Fatigue, disillusionment, failure, defeat all become frightening possibilities. The neglected private world can no longer hold the weight.
What’s the solution to all of this chaos created by busyness and drivenness? McDonald says,
There must be a quiet place where all is in order, a place from which comes the energy that overcomes turbulence and is not intimidated by it. And that place is the “Private world.”
The rest of this book is dedicated to teaching the reader how to get the “Private world” in order so that the “outward and inward man may be one.”