Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

July 9, 2006


Quality living requires more than instant gratification


          Our son Matt, a pastor, used the Chinese bamboo tree to remind me of one of life’s basic lessons. That lesson, in his words, is simply this: “The quality things of life are rarely developed overnight – they take time.”

          Our generation has pretty much ignored that lesson. The cry of modern culture is for instant gratification. Patience is not a virtue in our society. We want what we want – and we want it now.

          Start a casual conversation with a stranger, say in a doctor’s waiting room. A popular subject likely will be how we detest having to wait so long to see the doctor.

          Many traffic lights at busy intersections drive us crazy. It irritates us to wait 30 seconds for a green light. I have even been known to say to my wife, “Did you bring any peanut butter? We could fix a sandwich before this light changes.”

          There was a time when we could wait a few days to receive an answer to a letter written to a friend. No more. We can hardly wait a day for a response to an email message. For some of us, the days of buying stamps and using snail mail are over. We must have an instant reply.

          Cooking also must be fast. Here again we are guilty. We use the microwave oven ten times more than the over in our stove. We hardly ever turn the oven on anymore – except occasionally to dry out the morning newspaper. A wet paper becomes a crisis. Mama cannot work the crossword puzzle if the paper is wet.

          So far as men are concerned, one of the greatest inventions in history is the remote control for the television. The remote allows us to stay in our lazy boy rocker and change channels without moving a muscle – except the one that works the index finger.

          I have to admit I love that remote. With it I can get instant relief from the loud and insane commercials that are hated by everybody but the sponsors. I look forward to the one night a week my wife lets me use it. That’s the night she goes to see a movie with the girls.

          That is not really the truth. On rare occasions she will surrender the remote to me – but only after she has flipped through 682 channels trying to find some guy remodeling a patio. By then the remote is smoking. I have to let it cool down before I can use it to find a baseball game.

          The checkout line at the grocery store is another example of our unwillingness to wait. Who has the time to wait in a line with three other people in it? Why can’t they open more lines to accommodate me? Where is the manager anyway?

          Recently as I pushed my half-filled cart of groceries into a line, I noticed a woman walk up behind me with only four items in her hands. I politely pulled my cart back and motioned to her to get ahead of me. Staring at me, with a wild look on her face, she promptly fainted.

          As the paramedics worked quickly to revive her, I heard her saying repeatedly, “I can’t believe it; I can’t believe it; that man offered me his place in the line!”

          I did not wait to see if she was alright. I rushed back into the line,

just barely staying ahead of a man pushing a cart full of groceries. I have my limits to practicing compassion. My time is valuable. I had no time to wait.

          Knowing how impatient we all are, I realize some of you are about ready to pull your hair out. What about the Chinese bamboo tree? So let me share the story our son told.

          The Chinese plant the bamboo seed; they water and fertilize it, but the first year, nothing appears. The story is the same the second year, the third year, and the fourth year – not even a sprout comes up. Then, the fifth year they water and fertilize it – and something finally happens.

          During the fifth year, in a period of about six weeks, the Chinese bamboo tree grows some 90 feet! Our son asks this penetrating question: Did the tree grow 90 feet in six weeks or did it grow 90 feet in five years?

          His answer: “It grew 90 feet in five years because, had they not applied the water and fertilizer each year, there would have been no Chinese bamboo tree.”

          So as we struggle with this maddening demand for instant gratification that threatens to rob us of our peace and sanity, we shall be wise to learn the lesson of the Chinese bamboo tree. The best things in life are not overnight wonders. Things that matter require time, patience, and careful cultivation. + + + +