Friday, March 6, 2009

The Now Generation

Our society has been called the “now” generation. We want things “now”, no matter what they are. This has made us susceptible to many dangers, such as impulse buying, the desire for instant gratification, impatience with things that require time to develop. Wanting things “now” has many serious consequences. It causes the run up of hefty balances on our credit cards. It leads to dissatisfactions in marriages, many times resulting in divorce. It fuels the lotteries, with their enticement of a quickly amassed fortune. It destroys relationships that don’t develop quickly enough. “Now” can become a huge taskmaster.

The rocket scientist Wernher von Braun had an astute comment about the fallible nature of now. He once observed that "Crash programs fail because they are based on the theory that, with nine women pregnant, you can get a baby in a month.” Many things require time to develop. Just as it takes nine months for a child to be born, it takes time for relationships to develop, for nest eggs to be built, to experience the joy of working to acquire something in the future. These cannot occur overnight. To attempt otherwise leads to premature births, relationships that are constantly flitting from one to another, the temptation to compromise one’s values, etc. Living with a now mentality can cause us significant problems.

God is definitely not part of the now generation. He is described in several passages as being slow to anger. When the children of Israel turn from him time after time in the book of Judges, he often allows them to stray for decades before acting. Perhaps the greatest example of God’s not being part of the now generation is seen in the coming of Jesus. Jesus did not come immediately after the fall of Adam and Eve, but in the fullness of time. God is certainly not impulsive.

God also designs our lives to be much in the same way. In his poem The Windhover, the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins includes the line “Sheer plod makes plow down sillion shine.” The imagery is agricultural – of a horse pulling a plow. “Sillion” is a technical term, referring to the freshly turned, moist compacted earth that comes off the plow share. It often has a sheen which glistens as the sun hits it. This is what he means by “sillion shine”. It is only by the horse slowly plodding ahead, pulling the plow across the field, that we have the sillion shining and glistening in the sun.

Likewise, it is only by going through the nine months of pregnancy that we experience the joy of birth. It is only by putting a little bit away, month by month, year after year, that we accumulate our retirement nest egg. It is only by the discovery of new insights about another person and sharing ourselves with them over many years that relationships grow. It is only in our slowly becoming more like Christ in our lives that we grow in holiness. Each takes time. Each requires slowly plodding ahead.

Unfortunately we often try to short circuit the process. We look for the quick fix. We want the results without having to put in the effort. And we want them immediately! We become impatient if we don’t get them right away. When we do this we miss out on much that God has for us. We miss out on the joy of both a developing relationship with him and with others. We never see growth in Christian maturity. We have become captive to now. By the way, how much does now control your life?

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