Many people would say that music is a window into our soul; so many messages are communicated through the gift music it’s no wonder the lyrics of songs linger in the minds and hearts of our communities for many years after it has been released.
In 1989 the British rock band Queen featured a song called ‘I Want It All’ on their album, The Miracle. Written by guitarist and backing vocalist Brian May, he claims that its title reflects the theme of the song, that of having ambition and fighting for one’s own goals. Because of these themes, the song became an anti-apartheid song in South Africa and has also been used as a gay rights protest theme and a rallying anthem for African-American youth.
The idea of both fighting for one’s rights and wanting everything now has become more prominent in the lives of particularly younger people in the increasingly consumerist age of the last few decades. The desire for everything now is reiterated in the wider economy through such offerings as instant finance and instant returns in pyramid schemes. Saving for a future goal has been replaced by having it now and paying later. In the wider sphere of people the now generation has shown itself to be real through the instant gratification of casual relationships.
There is no doubt that the instant society has also infiltrated the life and operations of the local church. Whether it be through the desire for the best physical plant of facilities and technology or through finding answers to deep theological conundrums with the aid Google, faith is no longer expected to be something that grows to maturity, but is expected to be mature shortly after seeding. ‘I want it all and I want it now’ is the expectation and catch cry in an instantaneous church.
The instant society is not however reflected in the Biblical narrative. Faith and a deep understanding of God and His ways are not something that can be short-circuited, rather biblical authors write of a process, over time, of learning and reflection that leads to maturity.
In his first letter to Christians in the city of Corinth, Paul writes (13:11), When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. This verse reflects the journey of life, that a child can only talk like a child, but an adult has to put childish ways behind them as they grow into maturity. The aging process cannot be reduced, neither can maturity.
The author of Hebrews (chapter 6 verses 1-3) writes, Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity. Elementary teachings are deemed to be necessary but it’s not intended that someone should stay with the basics, in effect the more one knows the more one should begin to know.
Peter writes in his second letter (3:18), But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. There is an implication that growth is necessary, and growth by its very nature, takes time.
All of these Scriptures, and many others of a similar vain, strongly reiterate the requirement of growing from infancy to maturity over time, through experience and reflection.
If we seek instant answers to life’s ongoing mysteries, we short-change the opportunity we have for growth that lies in our paths. If we seek instant answers to life’s many challenges, we short-change the opportunity we have for the learnings that come through trial and error. If we try to find our own answers to our big questions, we miss the opportunity to grow through the wisdom and experiences of those who have gone before us and have learnt their own lessons.
Most people would say that they learn their greatest lessons from hindsight, from looking back at the process of learning, from thinking about what they learnt from mistakes made through naivety and poor judgement. But the lessons learned are worth the process for history is our greatest teacher.
Let’s not rush the learning process; let’s allow ourselves the freedom to slow down and smell the roses who take their own time to grow. Let’s allow God to dictate His terms to us, in His timing and in His terms.
Let’s push back against the ‘I want it now’ motif with a resounding ‘I want it later’ because the journey is more important than the destination. There’s probably a song about this, something like, ‘He makes all things beautiful, in His time.’ It sounds worth the wait.
Grant Harris is the Senior Pastor of Windsor Park Baptist Church in Auckland, New Zealand, a sports chaplain, a husband to his first wife and a father of four young adult children. He’s learnt his greatest lessons through trying to rush through life, and has realised this normally has short-changed his learning. He can be contacted at email@example.com.