Tag Archives: Gratification

The Easy Way Out

If we have found favor in your eyes,” they said, “let this land be given to your servants as our possession. Do not make us cross the Jordan.”
Numbers 32:5 (NIV)

When I was a kid I was terrible at waiting for things. My sister, Jody, and I would always tell each other what we were getting for Christmas. I just had to know, even though it pretty much ruined Christmas morning as a time of pleasant surprises.

Driven by my appetites I was terribly impatient as a young person and typically wanted things now. Perhaps this developed from being the youngest sibling and watching others get to do things first while I had to wait until I was big enough or old enough. Perhaps it’s just part of my personality. Whatever the case, I can tell you that throughout my life journey when I was given a choice between the instant, easy gratification of a known quantity or the long, slow, patient wait for a promised, better pay-off down the line, I have typically always chosen the former. I’ve been very good at taking the easy-way out.

This trait has generally not served me well.

So it was with great interest that I read the story of the Hebrew tribes of Reuben, Gad in today’s chapter. If you’ve been following the larger story we know that many years before today’s chapter Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land God had promised them in the land of Canaan.

Back in those ancient days the land was largely made up of small city-states that controlled a small territory. Sometimes these towns would band together to form a larger, regional power in the area, but often each city-state would build a wall around their village and go it on their own.  In those days it was a dog-eat-dog world in which people groups were constantly invading and conquering one another. You were always at risk of a larger, stronger people showing up out of nowhere, conquering you, killing your entire population, and taking all of your possessions as plunder. If the Israelites wanted the Promised Land they would have to take it by conquest. It seems bloody and barbaric in our politically correct, modern Western world, but the ancient world of the near east was a bloody, barbaric place. It’s just the way it was.

A generation earlier, on their first visit to the Promised Land, Moses sent spies into the land to check things out. All but two of the spies were fearful and advised not starting a military campaign to take the land. Two spies, Joshua and Caleb, advised that the Israelites have faith in God and go for it. Because of the tribes’ lack of faith God said they’d continue to be a nomadic, wandering people for an entire generation before giving their children another chance.

As today’s chapter opens we’re setting up for the second chance. The Hebrew Tribes have approached the Jordan River and are once more looking out over the Promised Land. It’s right there for the taking, but it will require a hard campaign of conquest an no guarantee of victory. Now, the Reubenites and Gadites come to Moses and say, “We like this land we’re standing on. Perfect for our flocks. We’ll settle for this. Have fun with the conquest.

It’s just like me as a little kid. “I’ll take the thing I can have right now. This land I can see and we already possess and I don’t have to worry about conquering? It will be way more easy. I’ll take the easy way out, thank you.”

Moses immediately thinks, “It’s deja vu all over again.”

When confronted with what they were doing, the Reubenites and Gadites strike a pledge that they will settle the land they were on, but would send their men on the military campaign to support their fellow tribes in the conquest. Moses agrees, but I can feel an eery foreshadowing of problems to come…

  • Will the Reubenites and Gadites really be committed to supporting the conquest when their wives and children are back on the other side of the Jordan?
  • Will the Reubenites and Gadites leave their best fighters to protect their families and possessions and send their worst fighters on conquest? How’s that going to go over with the other tribes?
  • Once the Promise Land is secured will the Reubenites and Gadites be pissed off when they realize that they settled for less when they could have had much better land if they’d just been patient and held-out like the other tribes?

[Cue: red flags waving, alarm bells going off, and a loud buzzer]

All of the hard lessons this impatient person has learned along my life journey tells me this is not going to end well.

This morning I’m reminded of some of my own mistakes when I chose immediate, easy gratification over a much better, promised pay-off that required patience, fortitude and/or hard work. Some of these mistakes were silly and insignificant, but others were tragically life changing.

I’ve learned over time to recognize the pattern in myself. I’ve developed more patience. Having experienced some really good “promised land” rewards and delayed gratification has given me positive reinforcement on which to draw upon. I’m more likely to make wise choices today than I was in my younger years. Nevertheless, I’ve learned that some natural inclinations never go away. I just have to learn to recognize and manage the moment when I’m tempted to take the easy way out.

Meditations on Song of Solomon

In the 11 years I’ve been writing my blog and posting my chapter-a-day meditations, I’ve not spent a ton of time worrying about whether posts are popular. I haven’t actively tried to either please or cater to a particular audience. That’s never really been the point for me. I simply post what’s on my heart and mind each weekday morning and scatter it like seed along my humble little path here in the blogosphere.

I have, however, casually noticed that my daily meditations on the Song of Solomon (aka Song of Songs), have seemed to  maintain a certain level of popularity (I use that word very loosely in the context of my subscribers and page views) that is unusual for my typical posts. It totally makes sense to me. Song of Songs is the one poetic book in all of God’s Message that focuses on man, woman, relationship, love, romance, and sex. We are ever trying to understand the mystery, aren’t we?

So, for what it’s worth, here is a compilation of my meditations from Song of Solomon, originally posted in October of 2013. Cheers!

 

 

Song of Solomon Chapter 1
A Hint of Paradise

God, the artist, created us male and female. He created us naked. He told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply. Love, intimacy and sex between husband and wife was part of the original ideal….

 

 

 

Song of Solomon Chapter 2
With Nobody Else but Me

Be mindful and wary of misplaced and competing affections and appetites.

 

 

 

Song of Solomon Chapter 3
Meeting the Parents

Today, I am pondering this dance of courtship that men and women have been doing since the beginning of civilization.

 

 

 

 

Song of Solomon Chapter 4
Sensually Good

Jesus said he came to give us abundant life. This includes a healthy appreciation for the breadth of senses God gave us to properly experience the full range of creation in its sensual glory.

Song of Solomon Chapter 5
The Art and Progression of Sexual Intimacy

My experience is that sexual intimacy does not become a breathtaking original work of art unless there are two people learning to create something together over time, learning to work together, make mistakes, erase errors, try something new, explore, play, complement one another’s individual style, and develop their own unique style as a couple over time together.

 

 

 

 

Song of Solomon Chapter 6
Browsing Among the Lilies

God created us male and female. He created us as sexual beings with hormones and sexual desires. He created a natural order in which people grow, develop, desire one another and have sexual relations through which new life is created. He called it “good.”

 

 

 

 

Song of Solomon Chapter 7
A Case for Delayed Gratification

In contrast to where our culture seems to be heading, I hear in Song of Solomon the wisdom, art, and beauty of love that takes time, effort, and creativity to develop. I am reminded that delayed gratification makes the climactic sensual feast deeper, more meaningful and ultimately more pleasurable.

Song of Solomon Chapter 8
Signed, Sealed, Delivered

God’s Message has scant descriptors of marriage. It does not prescribe a particular method or ceremony for marriage, but seems to allow room for cultures and history to develop a veritable plethora of customs around the marriage ceremony. What God’s Message does simply say is that a man and woman leave their respective parents, unite themselves, and become “one flesh.”


Tom Vander Well has been writing his blog, Wayfarer, since 2006. He lives in Pella, Iowa with his wife Wendy.

Seed, to Sapling, to Shade

source: Ikonotekton via Flickr
source: Ikonotekton via Flickr

Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” Luke 13:18-19 (NIV)

I am notoriously bad at growing things. I often feel ashamed of this. When you are born and live in Iowa nearly your entire life you tend to think that a green thumb should naturally be bred into your DNA. My paltry attempts at gardening and growing houseplants over the years have been an endless string of dismal failures (not unlike the Cubs attempts to win a World Series).

I am, nevertheless, increasingly appreciative of the time and patience it takes for things to take root, grow, and develop over time. I have observed over my lifetime how our culture has become focused on things happening instantly. I marvel to think how fast thing happen. We have fast food, faster downloads, a library at our fingertips, digital photos without developing, news from around the world popping incessantly on our smartphones, video calls with loved ones on the other side of the world, and on, and on, and on.

Along life’s journey I have come to realize that, unlike our consumer society, God is not a slave to the demands of the market He serves. He remains concerned with seasons of cultivating, planting, growing, pruning and harvest. God’s Kingdom is less about instant gratification and more about perfect timing. Chained to this concept we call time, I observe that we are incessantly focused on striving to pack in as much as we possibly can, as quickly as we can make things happen. Existing omnisciently outside of time, present in all moments at once, the Creator affords a perspective we can’t quite grasp in the moment.

I find this dilemma affects even how we want things to happen spiritually. I watch the effects with my fellow Jesus followers in our institutional churches. We want quick decisions, instant repentance, immediate life change, and the fruit of the Spirit produced post haste. We want attendance to explode in our services or we consider it a failure.

This morning I am reminded that God’s Kingdom is comparable to a tree that is grown from a small seed. A tree requires time to progress from seed to root to sapling to fruitful maturity when many can benefit from the shade of its branches. It requires patience and must persevere through difficult seasons and less than ideal circumstances. It will suffer from branches that don’t make it. I am encouraged by this truth. Progress, not perfection, is the prescription of the day. It gives me reason to have a little more grace with myself and to extend a little more love and mercy towards others.

Chapter-a-Day Esther 5

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

“If I have found favor with the king, and if it pleases the king to grant my request and do what I ask, please come with Haman tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for you. Then I will explain what this is all about.” Esther 5:8 (NLT)

Yesterday morning as I was sitting and waiting in the airport, something reminded me of an old Chuck Mangione jazz tune I’d not heard since I played the vinyl record of it on my turntable back in high school. I suddenly had the desire to hear that song again. I pulled up my iPhone, quickly found she song on my iTunes app and with a flick of my thumb I spent 99 cents to download it to my phone. From random thought to actually listening to the the song was probably little more than a minute. Amazing.

I can hardly describe for young people how much life has changed in the 30 years since I was their age. We live in an era of such instant gratification. Anything you want you can arrange to get almost instantly. No waiting. No patience required. If you have a smart phone and a cellular data connection you have the world and all of its goods literally at your fingertips.

I often wonder what affect this has on our souls and on our culture.

I smirked to myself this morning when I read of Esther refusing to tell the King and Haman what it was she really wanted. “Come back for another feast tomorrow, and I’ll tell you.” Brilliant. She builds dramatic tension. Gratification is delayed which only serves to heighten curiosity and a desire to know.

I love using that same device as a writer. Throw the question out there and then leave your reader or your audience hanging to find the answer. Last spring a group of actors showcased a few scenes of a play I wrote at an artist’s night. The scenes provided enough of the story to tease the audience with the dramatic question presented in the script, but did not reveal the answer. A couple of weeks ago a man came up to me and introduced himself, telling me that seeing those scenes drove him crazy that night. He immediately went home, pulled up the script on-line and read the whole thing. “I couldn’t stand it!,” he said to me with a laugh, “I just had to KNOW!”

There is something mundane in always getting what you want whenever you want it. It deadens the senses and chokes the soul. Delayed gratification is not a bad thing. It develops patience in us. It quickens the senses. It introduces hope, increases desire, and may even force us to exercise self-control. It makes the moment of gratification even sweeter. It teaches us to appreciate the ultimate reward.

So what is Esther going to ask the king? How is she going to save her people?  What is going to happen with Haman? You’ll just have to wait until next week. I only blog a chapter-a-day every weekday ;-).

Have a nice weekend!