No matter how well you know me, there are things you don’t know about me. Whether we are very close friends or you only know me through the blog, there probably are still things you don’t know. It works that way for everyone. There are things I don’t know about you – and likely don’t want to.
Moving on – one thing that I will share (that wouldn’t leave you wondering if I had crossed over into TMI land) is that I love to read. In the past couple of years, life has sped up for me to the point where I let that area get neglected a little, but have vowed in the past few months to get back on it. I’m sure I should set some goal about how many books I plan to read this year, but I haven’t done that.
Plus, the way that I read is very odd. I currently have four books that I’ve read at least part of. One is on my phone (audio book), two are in my bag that I carry (just in case), and one is at home. I’ll finish them all intermittently, and maybe even start one more at some point. I’m not sure what psychologists would stamp on me because of this odd little habit, but there it is.
One of the books I’m currently in called attention to the Marshmallow Test, conducted in the 1960s by Walter Mischel. In the Marshmallow Test, children were put alone in a room with a treat (often, this was a marshmallow or bowl of marshmallows, hence the name of the test). They were told that they could either eat the treat now or, if they waited and didn’t eat it immediately or before someone came back in the room, they would get more – maybe even double.
The results from each participant, recorded and tracked over decades that followed them into adulthood, became an indicator for how someone would fare later in life, almost one hundred percent of the time. The kids that could hold off and wait on their favorite treat, sometimes for hours, were the ones that perform higher academically, later earn more money, and just generally be healthier and happier. They also would be the ones to avoid negative outcomes, like serving jail time, obesity (obviously), and drug use.
So, according to this research, a predictor of your success in life is your ability to curb the need for instant gratification.
And, according to God’s word, a predictor of your growth in your faith is the same thing – how well can you resist what the enemy puts before you?
Sometimes, those things are evil by anyone’s definition. Maybe for some it is drug use or internet pornography.
For others, it’s more acceptable vices. Overeating, gossiping, or buying lottery tickets every time you fill up for gas. We probably agree there are better things to do, but don’t lose our mind if that’s what someone else takes part in and it’s not something you try to hide, at least in general.
Frankly, whatever it is, the enemy knows what your trigger is and will set up ways for you to be tempted by it – he knows that you live in an age of instant gratification. We want to know everything right now – from what Trump tweeted to what’s in our bank accounts to whether John Legend and Chrissy Teigen ever made it to Japan. (In case that last one is a mystery, you can read here.) Whatever it is, we lose our mind when we don’t get instant access on a device in our hand.
In the days when the Western part of the United States were being settled and families were moving farther away from civilization, people would have to wait days or even weeks for things that we take for granted. Need more flour, sugar, or anything else you can’t grow on your land? It might be a two-day ride to the nearest town (and then two days back). Need a doctor? He might cover a land area the size of Connecticut, so maybe 3-5 times a year he would stop by (certainly a far cry from getting a cocktail shot and a slush while you wait.)
Yet you lose your mind because it took Baker Mayfield so long to get to his press table after the game? Or decide to take someone to task on social media because your kid isn’t getting enough playing time on her 4th grade AAU soccer team? (She’s clearly a star and works so much harder than everyone else.)
Paul warned against dangerous insatiable desires in his first letter to the church at Corinth. “Everything is permitted for me – but not everything is helpful.” (1 Cor. 6:12) He knew that he could eat what he wanted, drink what he wanted, say what he wanted, etc., and no one would judge him for it. But, he also knew that spending his time and energy on things, even if they were available and permitted, wouldn’t grow him in his faith. In fact, it would produce the opposite result – it would give him more reliance on those things than on his relationship with the Father.
I don’t set new year’s resolutions. Do I need to eat less? Probably. Should I be in better shape? No doubt. Would I like to read more, spend more time with my family, worry less about things that don’t matter, and write more often? Yes to all of those things. But, mainly, I just want to stay away from those things that suck my time and energy and don’t deserve either.
The challenge I lay out there is – what are those things for you? What’s keeping you from more constructive, productive, and beneficial time on earth? Once you identify it – maybe it’s eating, maybe it’s the time you spend on Facebook, maybe it’s work – then how can you either cut down the time spent there, or eliminate it altogether?
For me, it’s reminding myself that what Paul said should constantly ring in my ears – it may be permitted, but it might not be helpful.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all the same ways – yet without sin.