When “Instant Gratification” and “Convenience” Met
I realize they have met before, but recently I arranged their first formal interaction in my life. It happened on a cold, windy Saturday in Virginia.
At the risk of dating myself, I must tell you I was around when big box stores started their feeding frenzy on smaller businesses, and S.S. Kresge slapped its first “K” on the front of a K-Mart. Large malls replaced shopping centers (sometimes literally) and home improvement chains lured customers away from corner hardware stores.
The bottom line was the bottom line. If we lived near a city we could find more stuff and buy it for less money.
Then the Internet changed our habits once more. It was no longer necessary to go to a big box store to find a large selection. We could browse the world! Last fall I purchased a car space heater from China. It took three weeks to arrive, but it was three dollars cheaper than the one I found in America (which was also from China).
This brings me to last Saturday when I was looking out the window at an area of my yard I wanted to seed. A Nor’easter was blowing over our peninsula with gusts of around 45 mph, so it was not the best day to plant anything. But I decided to purchase some grass seed so I would be ready for better weather. I grabbed my keys and was heading out the door when a thought hit me: “I wonder if I can order grass seed online and have it delivered to my house?”
In case you are wondering, the answer is “yes.” You can order almost anything online. But I had a dilemma. I could drive to the box store and have the grass seed in my arms that day, or order it online, and have it delivered to my door in two or three days. “Instant gratification” or “convenience”: which was it going to be? Of course, I could wait for a better day to buy the grass and stop by the store on my way home.
I know that.
But stick with me.
I ultimately decided to drive to the store, mostly because it is easier for me to visualize how much seed I need when I see the actual bag. I was “instantly gratified”, even if it wasn’t a good time to plant the seed.
Which would you have chosen?
And does it matter?
I wonder if we are in a transitional time in society’s spiritual preferences where what “feels good” is being replaced with “what’s easy.” Of course, both of these have always been a part of our observable faith. That’s why we want the temperature to be right when we worship God and why we might feel more inspired if we are able to find a parking space close to the building.
Still, consider the implications if I am right, or even partly right. Worshipping God could become less about what moves me and more about how much effort it takes to apply His truth to my life. We will always desire both because of our basic human nature. But perhaps, a cultural shift will change the order of our questions. Our first question might become, “How much effort is that going to take” instead of “How good is that going to make me feel?”
Let’s say, hypothetically, there is something to my pondering. What does it mean? Should we focus more on how to make the Christian life more convenient?
No. Besides, we have already tried this with disastrous results.
Instead, as those charged with reaching our world for Christ, we should ask, “How can we remove the obstacles we have created that make it hard for people to find Jesus?” We start by making sure we don’t create expectations of others that cannot be found in the Bible. Then we take a hard, honest look at ourselves and ask ourselves if we are as clear as we think we are in communicating the good news of Jesus. Maybe, what we think is clear, sounds something like the funny noise coming from a teacher on an old Charlie Brown cartoon (“Wah wa wah wa”).
One thing is for sure. One or two new generations of people are contemplating their next spiritual move at this very moment. I want them to move toward Jesus.
It is highly possible the next move isn’t theirs.
It could be ours.