“Hey, Momma … can you tell me what instant means?”
I paused from putting on my make-up to look at my ten year old girl. “Julia, are you sure you don’t know what instant means?”
“I thought I did, but I got confused so I thought I’d ask,” she responded.
“Generally, people use the word instant when they are talking about something that happens very, very quickly, almost immediately.”
“That’s what I thought … but if that’s what it means, then I don’t understand this at all.” With that, she shoved the Sunday morning comics at me, pointing to the ZITS panel.
( Please humor me and click on the comic so that you can enjoy reading it in a full-sized version. Be sure to click the back button to finish reading the rest of my story, which will now make a lot more sense.)
I took the comics page, and quickly read through the strip, chuckling as I remembered my family’s polaroid camera. Seems like half of my childhood photos are polaroids. I recalled the exciting wait to see the picture develop before my watching eyes, the thrill of holding the photo just minutes after it was taken. It certainly felt instant at the time, especially when compared to dropping off film at the local drug store and waiting a week for the photos to be returned.
“Mom … why are you laughing? What is so funny?” demanded Julia, her hands on her hips. “Really, I don’t get it.”
“Well …” I began, but then paused, trying to figure out where to start. “Let’s see … okay, when I was a little girl, most cameras used film. You had to take all the pictures on the film first, and usually there was somewhere around 12 to 24 photos on each roll of film, though some film canisters had more.”
“Yes,” Julia sighed. “I know about film.”
“Ok, well, once the film was completely used up, then you had to take it to get it developed. Until then, you didn’t know what your photos might look like.”
“Why didn’t you just look on the back?” Julia asked.
“The back of what, dear?” I looked at her out of the corner of my eye as I tried to apply my mascara.
“You know … the camera?” Julia sounded slightly annoyed.
I laughed again. “Sweetie, I’m not talking about digital cameras. When I was your age, there wasn’t a preview screen on cameras.”
Julia looked confused. “So …. how did you know what was going to be in the picture?”
“You had to put your eye up to the corner. There was something like a little window. And when you looked through it, you could see what was going to be in the photo.”
“Oh.” She paused, as if she were trying to put together the pieces of a puzzle. “Well, I guess it was a good thing you could just go to CVS and plug up the camera to see the pictures before you got them printed out. That way you wouldn’t have to pay for any bad ones.”
“Oh, Julia,” I laughed. “You couldn’t even plug these cameras up to a computer anywhere. The person who owned the camera had to take the film out of it and then send it off to be developed. It would take several days, sometimes up to a whole week, before you would get the photos back. Most places didn’t have the one-hour developing. And even if they did, you still had to pay for the bad ones.”
Cocking her head to the side, Julia asked, “Then … why did you bother? It seems like back in the old days, taking a picture must have been a lot of work. And it certainly was not instant.”
With that, she flounced out of the room, satisfied that her mother had indeed grown up in the stone age.
I is for Instant.
Since the crazy conversation with my daughter, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this instant era in which we are living. It’s not just the digital pictures, either.
We have instant communication through text messages, emails, Facebook, Twitter and other social media. There’s instant banking through online services or ATM. The news is so instant I can practically read about it as it happens. And if I am bored, then I can stream a movie instantly to my computer or TV.
The result is a life of no waiting. Everything happens at warped speed.
But is this such a good thing, after all?
The Bible talks a lot about waiting on the Lord. I don’t exactly how many verses there are in the Bible on this instruction, but I can think of at least three times the Psalmist encourages us to wait on God: Psalm 20:22, Psalm 27:14, and Psalm 37:14.
Truthfully, in my life experiences, there have been few things more agonizing or trying than waiting on the Lord to answer a prayer, especially when His answer seems to be slow in coming. Waiting means submitting myself to His authority over my life. Waiting means depending on His timing rather than my own. Waiting means I am giving God the glory and not myself. And yet, that’s exactly what God encourages us to do … wait on Him.
Today I am reminded that though I live in an instant age, it’s good to do some waiting. It helps me learn to lead a life that is more pleasing to God … and besides, a little waiting never hurt anyone.
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. ~ Isaiah 40:31
What’s God asking you to wait for in your life? How is this time increasing your faith?