As an ardent observer of our society, I have recently come to see that one of the greatest challenges presented to us in the last few decades has been the drive-thru. Yes, my friends, that fast lane at the fast food restaurant might just be the equivalent of Harold Hill’s pool hall. Maybe it’s time we took stock of what the presence of the drive-thru says about our community.
Somewhere back a stack of years someone decided that standing in line for a cheeseburger just wouldn’t do. The inconvenience of having to park the car, get out of the car, walk in and have to speak to a real person in order to get some lunch apparently became paramount, and the drive-thru was born. It didn’t take long for our society to buy into the dogma that convenience was king, and quick was queen. Soon all kinds of other consumer stops were building fast lanes, and in no time you could cash your check, fill your prescription, pick up your laundry, and even get your morning latte without ever leaving the comfortable confines of your ride. Ah, now that’s livin!
But at what price? Perhaps I shouldn’t blame the drive-thru for everything I’m about to say, but it certainly does stand as a vivid illustration of a turn of virtue that may in fact be quite devastating to our wellbeing as a society. To put it simply, the drive-thru – or more carefully, the attitude that it creates and feeds – has left us believing that more and more things in life should be quick and easy, convenient and comfortable, available on our time schedule, and served up to our specifications.
In my business I deal in the issues of living and dying, heaven and hell, right and wrong. Increasingly I am seeing folks coming to our churches believing there is such a thing as drive-thru holiness. They want purity, and great relationships, and especially patience, and they want them right now. They’re agreeable to the benefits of knowing God and obeying His Word, but only if someone will give them the drive-thru version so they can start enjoying all the blessings immediately. They come expecting that we can explain the reasons behind their problems and solve all their challenges with some simple spiritual equivalent of “take two aspirin, drink plenty of liquids, and get lots of rest.” But I know that “take two verses and call me in the morning” belittles not only their concerns, but even more the grandeur and holiness of the One I represent. Coming to recognize personal brokenness and guilt before the face of Almighty God, and then doing an about-face from the ways of sin and self to follow Him in righteousness is more like a marathon than a drive-thru. It will take daily dependence upon His strength which He has promised is perfected in our weakness. The struggle of faith is very inconvenient to the pride that come pre-installed on the human hard drive.
But spiritual pursuits are not the only place the drive-thru mentality has become commonplace. In a couple days we’ll all head to the voting booth, having considered the choices before us. We’ll mark our ballots and then stay up late watching the results as America speaks about the way we want our future to go. But I am afraid that far too many have been infected with the drive-thru virtue that expects and then demands quick solutions, convenient changes, and comfortable futures. We vote, you get elected, and then you fix things, right? And your fixes need to happen soon, and in a way that we are benefited without pain. We want drive-thru government, drive-thru political action, and most of all, drive-thru lives that are never inconvenienced by tough choices, personal sacrifice, or solutions that will take years and years to develop and implement. If we can get our grande triple de-caf non-fat no-whip mocha in a matter of seconds, how hard can Social Security, homelessness, and healthcare be?
Of course I’m being silly. But then again, the drive-thru mentality just may be more deeply ingrained than we realize. So, as we approach the voting season, be real. Recognize that deep, broad problems that have sprung from the soil of years and years of political compromise will not be solved easily, quickly, or to everyone’s satisfaction. Some of them may demand sacrifice on our part, and others may, in fact, demand the dismantling of things we find dear. My great fear is that with convenience and comfort occupying a high position in our value system, many of the problems will only grow worse as we settle for seemingly easy solutions.
Sure, the political opportunities we have to shape our government offer us some leverage. But, I am also confident that the place where you and I can actually effect the greatest change for good is in our own homes and neighborhoods. We need to model the great virtues of hard work, perseverance, wisdom, clear thinking, and honest perspective. We need to make sure our kids don’t succumb to thinking that life is just one big drive-thru. They need to know that success in every area demands a courageous commitment to balanced thinking, creative problem-solving, and above all else, uncompromised character. And you won’t find any of those on the drive-thru menu.
David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident. “Ethically Speaking” runs Saturdays in The Signal.