I am reading A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society by Eugene Peterson. Based on the title, you might think this book was written recently. It was originally published in 1980, over forty years ago. Even then, Eugene Peterson saw that we were being pulled toward instant gratification, success, and comfort.
What was instant in 1980, today would seem impossibly long. Our appetite and desire for the immediate has only grown. I think of this often as I watch myself and others struggle to understand why mastering something takes toil, pain, and more effort than we imagined. Upon reflection, I’ve come to understand that I live in a world that rarely shows the process, only the perfected result.
Let’s say I want to try a new pancake recipe. Within seconds I have hundreds at my fingertips online. I pick one with solid ratings and get to work. As I scroll to the recipe, every single image is one of a flawless steaming stack of pancakes with syrup dripping down the sides. Unconsciously this becomes my measure of success. Do my pancakes look like the ones in that edited photo? Maybe they will, but more likely they won’t. There won’t be symmetry in the circles. Not every single one will be the same size or hue of golden brown. Maybe they aren’t as fluffy as those in the photo. There are a hundred ways these pancakes could go wrong, none of which I anticipated when looking at the photo.
Now take a step back and think about how we do this with nearly everything we consume online. The pants we buy that don’t look the same on our body as they did on the website model. The styled fall mantle and clean living room that doesn’t show the pile of laundry behind the camera. The braids and clean outfits of the children ready for the first day of school that can’t express the anxiety bubbling from a new experince or the mom desperately trying to get them to school and work on time. The writer with the candle at her desk typing away to meet the deadline for her new book contract that doesn’t show the hours of staring at a blank screen with a blinking cursor. I could go on, but my point is we aren’t consuming the process, only the result. And truly, the result we see is often not realistic because it doesn’t show all the other results that were actually failures, the rejections, the closed doors, the times we didn’t get it right.
We’re meant to fail, fall, learn, and get back up. We aren’t made to execute every part of our lives with distinct success. There would be no vulnerability, connection, or need for each other if we lived in a world like that. We’d all be independent islands slaying every challenge the day brought us, but completely void of understanding why we do what we do and why we want to do it in the first place. Our relationships would be less than surface level, and we would lack being truly known.
So, make the perfect pancakes, but take your time figuring out how. If it doesn’t happen after one or two tries, that is actually the best result you could ask for: the opportunity to grow, learn, and try again.
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