We live in a culture where instant gratification has become the new norm. Everyone walks around with devices in our pockets that can answer almost any question within seconds. These machines are full of apps that allow us to talk to anyone immediately (even face to face), find places instantly, check the weather and news worldwide at a whim, date or not date people with a mere glance at their picture and a swipe of the finger, respond to emails remotely, scan social media to see what everyone we know had for lunch today, and purchase all the things our hearts desire. The list goes on of all the things that we now expect to have and know instantly.
This is unhealthy for us, because instant gratification diminishes patience. When we spend so little time waiting for things, we do not build up the discipline of patience and we lose touch with the beauty of delayed gratification. Like all skills, patience requires practice - and how better to practice patience than by learning to appreciate waiting as opportunities to grow. Instead of complaining about slow internet, perhaps we can rejoice that we have such a valuable resource. Instead of searching desperately for love on a dating app to cure our loneliness, perhaps we should invest in our friends more and enjoy the wait of finding someone - or better yet, enjoy the possibilities that being single provides. Instead of breaking our bank accounts to buy all the things we think will make us happy, perhaps we should learn to enjoy what we have and what we can afford in the time of life and financial situation we find ourselves in.
When we are used to getting our way all the time, we do not tend to have much patience or grace when things do not go our way, making us generally grumpier and less-pleasant people. But when we learn to be comfortable with waiting for people, resources, and situations to happen in their own time and manner (if they happen at all), we will grow to be content and even joyful with what we have, and we will be all the more pleased when something or someone we have waited for comes to fruition. And when things do not happen as we want them to or in our preferred timing or manner, we will not be easily bent out of shape, instead able to respond with grace and understanding. Waiting gives us the opportunity to listen, to learn, to grow in empathy and understanding for others, and to build up patience and endurance.
"Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry." - James 1:19
We do not tend to see growth while it is happening, but rather after it has been happening for some time. It is a slow process, taking its own time. Trees do not appear to be growing; they seem rather stuck, not budging in the least. That is, until we remember that a massive oak used to be a tiny seed, then a fragile sprout, a small tree, etc. until it became the giant we all recognize, able to provide for the needs of its community.
And how did the tree get to be so huge a blessing? By enduring harsh winds and rains, relishing times of sunshine, and patiently waiting in the soil for its roots to establish a firm foundation so that it will not be torn up when storms do arise.
So it is with people. If we do not have patience, joy, and endurance to grow, then we will be torn up when storms strike. But if we wait and work and trust, then when we compare where we once were to where we are now, we will see how tall, strong, and beautiful we have become, and we will see the many ways we have blessed others and can do so even more since we have taken the time to grow.