For centuries societies depended almost entirely on agriculture. The recognition that ground had to be cleared and plowed, seeds sown, and plants tended was part and parcel of daily life. It took many labors and many days to reach the reward of harvest. The reality of life was that perseverance was necessary. Hard work, consistently exercised over time, was the daily reminder that good things come at a price, and that the things you worked the hardest to earn brought the most joy. Life ran on the truth that gratification delayed was joy multiplied.
Today it is evident that we’ve largely lost the value of perseverance. Technology, while enabling us to accomplish so much that is outstanding and helpful, has also reformatted our appreciation of a long obedience in the same direction. We’ve become intoxicated with immediacy. In fact, we look at those still using slower ways of doing things as ignorant if not foolish. The idea of working on the same thing for a whole year just seems outrageous. Surely something can be done to speed things up! After all, we landed men on the moon, can tweet around the world, and can cook dinner in four minutes. If success and satisfaction can’t be gained right now then I simply must get the latest upgrade.
Now don’t get me wrong. I enjoy the latest speed and power as much as the next guy. But what I’m seeing is that our impatience is leeching over into other areas of our lives. What we have come to expect from our phones and computers we are now demanding in our relationships and other fundamental areas of life.
Take parenting, for example. Ask any expert on raising kids and you’ll hear that the best parenting puts basic standards in place, and stays consistent over time in expectations, reward and discipline. It almost doesn’t matter what the standards are as long as you stay consistent. Parents must agree, stay the course despite whining, crying and circumstance, and consider that the process of raising a solid, compassionate, self-directed citizen as a long, long, long process. You plant seeds every day, water and fertilize them every day, and wait 20 years to see if they bear good fruit. There are no shortcuts, and those who try them usually end up wondering where they went wrong.
For years we raised our kids to be leaders and readers, courageous and compassionate. And all along the way we wondered – sometimes daily! – if they would ever really “get it.” But when, as adults, they demonstrate that they can make their own way well in this world, appreciate their parents’ bedrock values, and express their love to those who sacrificed to give them both a life and a lineage, the joy is truly inexpressible.
Things that come easily and quickly are usually also the things that are easily forgotten. But those things that take time, that require a strong and consistent perseverance, produce the stuff of lasting joy. And the raising of kids is only one illustration of this. Anything of lasting value is worth the investment of your life, including your time, energy, creativity and prayer. Like the hard-working farmer, let’s never lose sight that the reward of harvest comes only after months and months of labor. If it is worth anything, it’s worthy of hard work.
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.