Immediacy has become the name of the game, but it can erode our relationships if we don't watch out.
One day this week at the supermarket, there were a couple of people waiting at the checkout and one man was so impatient he decided to walk out in a huff rather than wait just a few minutes. How often do we notice the same attitude creeping into our own daily behavior? We’re so used to getting what we want at the push of a button that the slightest delay irks us. If the doctor keeps us waiting for an appointment, we don’t hesitate to express our displeasure. If our internet connection isn’t immediate, we get annoyed. Without our even notiicing it, this “everything right now” attitude can little by little take over our lives.
A mentality that infects everything
Technical advances have accelerated, and we’re the lucky beneficiaries. But this acceleration has no affect on life itself: the planet goes on spinning in its own good time, one season still follows another. Even if medical progress now enables premature babies to survive, it still takes nine months for the full development of a child in his mother’s womb. Plants still grow at their own slow pace, and we all know how long it takes for burnt-out forests to recover.
Immersed in this world of fast transport, tools of communication, and all sorts of machines that respond immediately to our demands, we’re in danger of forgetting the value of time. However, time remains essential to the quality of our relationships. Why not check if our behavior has become infected by this prevailing mentality?
Do we, in the image of God, know how to take our time?
When our children beg us for a bedtime story, do we stop to spend a little time with them? When the older ones start sharing confidences just when it’s getting late and you were hoping to relax, do we pause for some quality time with them? When, as a couple, our wishes conflict, do we take the time to get back in sync with one another though it might prove to be a long conversation?
Do we welcome the neighbor who unexpectedly drops in because they really need to talk just when we’ve got a pile of chores to get through? Do we give in to the temptation of a “quick little prayer” because we’re just too tired? In our agendas filled with activities and appointments, do we mark off a bit of time simply to be still and especially attentive to the Spirit, perhaps over the course of a retreat?
The Bible clearly tells us how God took his time to raise up the chosen people. When the Hebrews left Egypt for the Promised Land, despite their eagerness to get there, they spent 40 years in the desert. Jesus himself spent 30 years in Nazareth before beginning his public ministry, and 40 days in the desert before calling his first disciples.
Ban “everything right now” from our relationships
Let’s check that, in our relationship to ourselves, to our loved ones, and to God, we’re not impatient, expecting an answer from others as rapid as our electronic gizmos! And if we’re forced to wait at the supermarket checkout or for a doctor’s appointment, why not take advantage of that time to take a breather, to look around us, to be attentive to those around us, to turn our heart to the Lord? And when we have the impression it’s wasted time, learn to see it as an invitation to live better, love better, and pray better.
Little by little, we’ll thus escape that internal pressure to have “everything right now” in our relationships; and we’ll cultivate our landscape of love, a landscape that takes time to grow.