Reflections by Jerry Webber

Monday, November 28, 2011

Resisting a Microwave Life

It's just my preference, I suppose, but I've never thought food tasted particularly good when microwaved. That goes back to the earliest days of microwave ovens -- and I think I had one of the originals in the early 80's. . . the thing seemed as large as a billiard table! -- right up to present.

The idea of "instant food" appeals to the part of me that wants what I want right now. Beyond food, though, the idea of instant anything is a symptom of the culture and the times. Instant communication, instant gratification, instant response-times . . . we aren't very practiced at patience and waiting. (Black Friday shopping stories became horror stories for some . . . the rush to grab and possess NOW seems bred into our contemporary psyche.)

Spirituality is not immune from the microwave syndrome.

I say often to people that there is nothing quite as slow and sloppy as prayer and the spiritual life. There is just no way to take short-cuts, no way to get to a destination without putting in the time and work.

It's not that people -- including me -- haven't tried to speed up the process. In the days when I was first exposed to spiritual disciplines and to various forms of prayer, I was so excited by my discoveries that I wanted to be an immediate expert. Because I had found something that was life-altering, I wanted to share it with others. I wanted to be farther down the road. I wanted to teach things to others I barely knew myself. Looking back, the results were not so disastrous as they were comical . . . at least I hope they were comical and that I didn't do serious harm to the folks I was dealing with.

There are many things in life, though, that cannot be sped up. The created world is a wonderful teacher . . . crops cannot be rushed to fruitfulness . . . the human body cannot be sped to physical growth . . . the animal kingdom has its own rhythm and pace.

And so spiritual progress cannot be hastened along. It happens deliberately, in God's own time. I was very mindful of this slow, unforced process recently . . . a lesson from another part of life.

In August I made a commitment to begin training in order to run a 5k race with my son on Thanksgiving Day. I began running in August, augmenting the exercise regimen I already followed. My lung capacity and leg strength built up slowly . . . some days I felt all of my 53 years, and other days I felt spry and fit.

In late October, about a month before the target date, I got sick with some kind of infection that put me on the shelf for over two weeks. I stopped running and gave attention to getting my body healthy again. I realized, though, that I was losing time in my training program that I could not get back. When I finally was able to start training again, I had to go backwards and build up my times and distances again.

I realized in those days that there was no quick way to train. There was no shortcut. There was nothing that could make up for the time I had lost, at least in the short term. With the race less than two weeks away, I could not make up for lost time. One day, I literally thought, "I have no microwave oven to put my training into." It was a sobering thought.

For instance, to double up or triple up on the training would have knocked my body completely out. What my mind said was, "Do more. Training harder. Work at it more diligently. In the two weeks that remain, if you work hard enough you can make up for the two weeks you missed." But it doesn't work that way. Thankfully, I resisted my microwave impulse. But that I considered the thought said to me that I'm not immune to the desire for a microwave life.

I'm guessing that you won't have to look long or far to find your own tendency toward a microwave life. It will be different than mine, but I'm guessing that it is there somewhere.

By the way, last Thursday morning I ran the race, the 5k . . . I didn't burn up the course, but I didn't do bad for an old, slow guy.


Anonymous said...

Yay!! I'm do glad you were able to run AND you finished!!

Kathryn Kelley said...

i don't need a microwave but one magic wand will do. it cannot only speed things up, but, unlike a microwave, it can literally change things to something other than is. shazam. one magic wand...please. not that, then ruby red slippers. pretty please.