Instant video streaming, on-demand programming, twenty-four hour grocery, credit-cards, texting, and next-day delivery are wonderful. They reward my desires instantly. Immediacy befriends me. Entitlement invites me to come over. We party at once and without delay. So, when I crave a food, want a mood from a show, or need aspirin from Walgreens at 3:00am, I feel quite grateful for this split-second, on the spot way of life.
But ask me how long I can handle no response after I’ve texted or emailed somebody before I begin to doubt whether they like me, or think I’ve done something wrong to offend them or ascribe negative judgments about their character, and you can begin to see through me into an area of weakness.
Hurry is no friend to love
I am unskilled at waiting; unpracticed in managing the emotions that waiting requires. I am an amateur at patience. Which according to the Apostle Paul means that I am in this area of my life an amateur at love, unschooled and unseasoned. Naively, I try to apply the instant, immediate, entitlement way of life to my relationships, my marriage, my work-place, my dreams, and my problems. Perhaps this is why young married’s these days are struggling to make it through their first three years and why the average stay of a pastor or a congregant in a church isn’t much better.
I’ve been trained that when I do not get what I want, exactly how I ordered and immediately, I can raise my voice, complain, ask to see a manager, threaten to take my business elsewhere, threaten to speak poorly about the experience to other consumers. But try these tools when attempting to build a long life of friendship or love with another human being or in community as a congregation of Jesus-followers and this “on-my-demand” kind of approach doesn’t cut it. I can push a button, mouse-click a computer screen, or slide my plastic card for instant reward with little effort. But building a career of integrity in a company will require most of us to work hard, daily, with integrity, and over the long haul. This humbles those of us who are rookies at sticking around. Jesus provides the grace here that we rookies need.
Rarely then can words like “instant” and “love” go together and we can give thanks to God for this. By connecting love to patience Jesus recovers for us the idea that sexually, people are not meant for our on-demand use, educationally, people need time to learn; mentally, people need time to recover from what has nearly broken them; that work has more than our own immediate wants in mind, that pastors and church members have a purpose larger than themselves, a reason to tarry with each other that impatience cannot comprehend.
It also means that God in Jesus has never been impatient with you. His judgments and His mercies have both been patiently given to you. Jesus intends to save us from our haste and to recover our view of God. He does so and slowly but steadily in Him our stamina grows.