Too many times I let convenience control my perspective and decisions, and even steal my joy and focus. Where does this attitude come from?
Across the bagel shop a woman paced with her laptop open. It didn't take me long to realize she was searching for a wireless signal. (I've paced with my laptop before.) The bagel shop promotes free Wi-Fi, and that's exactly what she wanted. She took her computer over to the counter to relay the difficulties to a manager. While waiting for management, I reassured her that I couldn't find a wireless signal either.
"Oh, good. I'm glad it's not just my computer. If I had known the wireless wasn't working I would've never come or spent my money." I nodded and smiled. In a frustrated tone, the woman told me about her Internet needs.
The manager came out from the back room and explained that the wireless network had been down overnight. She went on to clarify that the store's priority is quality food and service, and then added that infamous phrase, "I'm sorry for any inconvenience."
I empathized with this woman's situation. At the same time, it made me question if I, too, often have an irritated attitude at the slow pace of a situation, or if something isn't accommodating my needs.
What popped into my head next were situations when I'm standing in line to pay for a single item at a store where only one register is open. Then the person in front of me poses a complicated question, demands a price check on an item that is 10 aisles away or writes a check. I may look like I'm waiting patiently, but inside I'm screaming, Get on with it, already! I'm inconvenienced because my expectation was to be in and out of the store in 20 minutes.
Too many times I let convenience control my perspective and decisions, and even steal my joy and focus. Where does this attitude come from? Do I spend more time worshiping the god of convenience than the God of the universe?
My Way, My Time
Almost every direction you turn there is someone or some company ready to make life convenient. We have drive-thru windows at coffee shops, one-stop shopping stores and multiple ways of buying anything and everything online. If you need to mail something, many postal/mailing services will not only pick up your package, but also provide a box.
In his book Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster talks about our society's obsession with needing our own way in our timing. "The obsession to demand that things go the way we want them to go is one of the greatest bondages in human society today. People will spend weeks, months, even years in a perpetual stew because some little thing did not go as they wished."
Convenience affects the pace of life and how our society functions. We need to open our eyes and see how we've been sucked in and how it's playing a role in our own lives, even in how we relate to God.
The Bible doesn't team the words life and convenience. Actually, the words more commonly used together are life and trouble, or life and trials. Jesus says, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it" (Mark 8:34-35).
We're not called to convenience. Christ didn't say that when we decided to follow Him that it would be convenient. Actually He said the opposite, that we must deny ourselves and give up the ways we want to do things in order to give Him control.
What Can You Do for Me?
Convenience messes up our priorities. Think about what's really important to you. Why is that important? Is it important because it was quickly gained? Probably not. Most of what's really important in our lives comes from time and investment, like relationships with family and friends. Then convenience comes in and says, There are only so many hours in a day. You don't have time for her. That's not going to fit with your plans or schedule. Someone else will take care of it.
Many times if something isn't easy then people don't even bother. That can even be true when it comes to relationships. When things get tough or conflict arises it seems easier to bail than allow the relationship to be refined through hard work. All we see is what we're not getting out of the relationship, instead of what we could glean through it or the opportunity to serve someone else.
Luke 19 tells the story of Zacchaeus who had to climb up in a tree to see Jesus because he was short. It would've been easy for him to decide that climbing was too much trouble and that he would simply see Jesus some other time. This must have been important to him.
"When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, 'Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.'" (Luke 19:5). What if Zacchaeus had said, "Well, that won't work for me. Could you come stay with me tomorrow?" Jesus wasn't concerned about the condition of Zacchaeus' living room, interrupting his afternoon plans or being convenient. As Zacchaeus welcomed Jesus into his life and household he also received salvation. If he had bowed to convenience he would've missed personally knowing Jesus.
How has convenience affected your relationship with Jesus? Along with one-stop shopping comes finding the quickest way to have some Jesus and get to work on time. You can listen to the Bible in your car or receive a prayer email reminder. These resources aren't bad, but they shouldn't replace the time, focus and investment crucial for an intimate relationship with Jesus.
Convenience has often replaced commitment, not only to Jesus or relationships, but also in ministry. Our gauge of church involvement has more to do with how it fits in our schedule than how it fits with how God has gifted and equipped us. Ministries are in such desperate need for volunteers they try to accommodate to tight schedules. Shouldn't it be the other way around: the body of Christ committed to serving others that ministries are overflowing with people?
Not Bending to Our Tendencies
It's sad how convenience has seemingly taken over and has left us aimlessly pacing with an irritated attitude. I've realized in my own life something has to change. Here are some ways I'm learning to lay aside convenience and give my focus, time and priorities back to God.
Be. Don't constantly live in the next moment. See how God wants to use you and teach you in the place and moment you are in right now. If you're waiting in line at the store start a conversation with the person in front of you. Open your eyes to what's going on around you. God is on a completely different time frame. He's calling us to be servants, not those who seek to be served.
Give. Generosity is usually the first thing to go when in competition with convenience. We think we're in control when we tightly hold our time, money and decisions. Instead we need to realize God's in control and He gives us one moment at a time. Think again to what's most important. Have you lost sight of the time and investment needed in specific relationships, even in your relationship with God? Is God calling you to an uncomfortable sacrifice, maybe financially?
Recognize. The god of convenience is not going to disappear just because you desire to live against the culture grain. Allow times when you're accommodated or even frustrated with inconveniences to remind you to check your perspective and focus.
Inconvenience doesn't equal unimportant. Every week I travel to that same bagel shop to meet a friend for breakfast. I live across town and take public transportation to get there. It's not necessarily convenient for me, but I wouldn't trade those times of conversation and encouraging each other. Relationships with family, friends, people in ministry and Jesus are much too important to let them be controlled by convenience.
Don't bow to the god of convenience, letting it steal your joy! It's not even worth free Wi-Fi.
Copyright 2008 Krishana Kraft. All rights reserved.