I received a book for Christmas titled A Book That Takes Its Time. In it there is an article on postponed pleasure which discusses the current need for instant gratification and its effects on people. Because of their need for instant gratification, people are missing out on a sense of anticipation, like waiting for Christmas morning to arrive. Not only that, but also people don’t appreciate what they have when they do get it. They are soon distracted by a new toy that they don’t have that someone told them they should have and the joy quickly evaporates.
People also aren’t willing to work at something. They want to be able to do it perfectly immediately, or they don’t want to do it at all. For example, when I started taking martial arts classes in high school in the 80’s, you had to work for 3 months before testing for your first belt, and then 6 months for the next belt and another 6 months for the next belt. Now schools are testing every few months to give students that sense of instant gratification because 6 months seems too far away and they lose interest. They need constant reinforcement in order to maintain interest in something. So, schools developed curriculum that required more belts over shorter periods of time so that students would want to go to the next level of the game, so to speak, and it gave the schools more income for more testing as well. Everybody wins! Except, they don’t really.
There is something to be said about working toward a goal and anticipating seeing it fulfilled that has been lost in a society of instant gratification. When we quickly get something, we just as quickly want to move on to a new thing. Our joy is short-lived and requires more and more to meet that ever-growing need. We are never happy. It is never enough. If we take the time to just enjoy the moment, like quietly watching the sunrise over the ocean (or even through your window at home), it gives the moment more…well just more. More joy and satisfaction for a goal achieved through time and dedication and sometimes through blood, sweat, and tears. The more we put into a goal, the more we will appreciate it when we reach that goal.
So, take the time to enjoy your life. Instant gratification is not all it’s cracked up to be. Take up a new hobby, like knitting, even if it means taking the time to learn new skills and practice. Your first project may look like a 5-year-old did it, but it is all about learning and enjoying the process. When you finally complete that project that made you pick up knitting as a goal, you will look back and laugh about the good times and the frustrating times and realize you enjoyed the ride. Life is the same. It’s not about the destination, but about the journey. Enjoy each day of the journey and each stop along the way; otherwise, who knows what you are missing out on.
I am not a fan of roller coasters. The constant up and down and being thrown about does not appeal to me and often makes me sick. I don’t find any fun or thrills in the process. We often refer to life as a journey which includes mountains and valleys, but when the mountains and valleys come too close together, the effect is a roller coaster.
Lately, life has been a bit of a roller coaster with things changing on sometimes an hourly basis. I have given up definitive plans for the near future. In other words, I don’t write anything in stone because I am not sure of where the next few turns will take me. I have come to a few conclusions, however.
First, we can make plans, but we only have today…the moment…to work with, so we have to keep that in mind. We have to roll with the punches and do the best we can. Do what you can do in the moment and enjoy all the little moments of joy as they come amid the struggles in life. Smile and sing along with a tune on the radio or wonder at the sudden appearance of wildlife or laugh at a funny moment in life.
Second, I am inspired to actually do the things I’ve talked about doing instead of putting them off to another day. Too many days have gone by in that manner. If we do all that we can do in a given day, then we will not have regrets. We may never accomplish everything we set out to do, but at least we will have tried. Besides, it may be that God never intended for us to do some things because He had other more important things for us to do.
While I can’t stop the roller coaster, I can do more to try and enjoy life. I can be more attentive to what God has for me to do and ignore what the world says I should do. I can only do what I can do and the rest is up to God.
Most people these days use a GPS when going somewhere for the first time. It gives a visual of the next segment of the trip and includes an electronic voice that reads the directions as you approach turns or changes in course. If you do not follow her directions, the voice will say, “recalculating” as it resets the directions to help you get back on the course she has laid out for you.
Life is often described as a journey. As a Christian, our ultimate destination is Heaven, but there are many stops along the way. We often encounter crossroads or are distracted by side roads and get off the path laid out for us by our GPS – God’s Positioning System – also known as the Holy Spirit. In a still small voice the Holy Spirit prods us and comforts us as we go on the journey. Sometimes He also has to recalculate the directions when we go off the course plotted out for us by God.
We also have a physical map in the form of the Bible. Psalm 119:105 says, “They Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” It shows us the way a segment at a time, just like the GPS in your car. Just as a flashlight or lantern can only illuminate a small section of a path in the dark, so does God illuminate the way we should go in small sections. We never see all the stops on the journey, but as we move along, more of the path is unveiled just as when we move forward on a path with a flashlight. Until you take a step forward, you cannot see any further no matter how hard you look.
Recalculating, unfortunately, is a constant need as we often think we know better than the GPS or even try to turn it off. While the GPS in your car can sometimes be mistaken, God never makes a mistake. However, as soon as you realize you have strayed off the right path or taken a wrong turn, ask your GPS to recalculate and show you how to get back on the right track. One of the many benefits of a God-given GPS is that it never has to search for a satellite or tower and the battery is never dead. It is always active and ready to guide us as long as we will use it and follow directions.