‘Tis the season to be jolly, as the old song says. And, for many of us, to stand in line.
Indeed, a couple of things happen routinely every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas. First, there’s a flurry of sales (generally starting on so-called Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving) designed to whip Americans into a consumeristic feeding frenzy.
Second, the last few years anyway, there have been some big movie franchises pumping out new installments during the holiday season, from Twilight to Harry Potter to (this year) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first of three movies from Peter Jackson to bring Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings prelude to life.Christmas Day will also see another big-screen version of Les Miserables, this time packed with the familiar music of the beloved musical. No doubt a few Broadway fans will be lining up for that one as well.
What do these two endeavors have in common? Why, standing in line of course.
For the premiere of the final Twilight movie in November, for instance, some fans started camping out for the good seats as much as a week in advance. Similar stories surfaced with regard to The Hobbit, as hard-core Tolkienites apparently traded in hard-earned vacation time to ensure they’d be able to grab the best seat in the house on opening night.
And then there are those infamous Black Friday sales. Once upon a time, they’d start at 7:00 or 8:00 in the morning. Those days are gone, my friends. These days if you want to snag a flat screen TV on the cheap or, well, practically anything else for that matter, you have to be willing to forgo sleep and get in line for sales that start, literally, in the middle of the night.
What’s going on here?
Though seeing a hit movie first and getting a really good deal are two very different things, the two experiences share some common ground: namely, people who are willing to sacrifice time to acquire what they want. In the case of these movies, it’s the satisfaction of experiencing a story before anyone else, and doing so with an audience that’s every bit as fanatical. In the case of the sales, it’s the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve acquired a coveted material possession at the best possible price.
For those of us willing to make such sacrifices of time, then, the lines we’re willing to stand in reveal something about what we care about.
Personally, I did end up in a line on Black Friday. It wasn’t a line to get in the store, but a line that formed within the store to check out. It was about 1:00 o’clock on Friday afternoon, hours after the best doorbusters at Toys ‘R’ Us had no doubt flown off the shelves. But it was still a madhouse, with a line of shoppers waiting to check out that stretched to the back of the store. It was so intense, in fact, that I gave up trying to push a cart around at all, leaving it instead in a corner as I dashed into this aisle and that to find the bargains that remained as I shopped for some Christmas toys for my three kiddos.
More than once I thought, This is crazy. But that didn’t stop me from participating … and getting some great deals on a couple of baby dolls for my two girls and some Star Wars Transformers for my son. In the end, I was willing to endure a long wait to get a deal that otherwise would have passed me (and my family) by.
Whether it’s a line for a sale, a line for a movie or a line for anything else we might want to secure (I used to stand in line for concert tickets, but the Internet put an end to those particular queues), however, I think the things we’re willing to wait for offer a ready-made opportunity to assess our values.
What are we willing to wait for? What will we sacrifice sleep and comfort to acquire? And — here’s the kicker — is it really worth the effort we put into acquiring it? In other words, is the value we’re placing on these things commensurate to what they’re really worth?
Obviously, there are spiritual implications to these questions … even if what we’re standing in line for doesn’t feel particularly spiritual. Are we as willing to make sacrifices of time and comfort for the things of God — things that will last for eternity in comparison to the fleeting payoff of the lines I’ve described above?
For me, I’d say I’m still growing in learning to value what God values, to sacrifice my time, money and effort for the things He cares about most. Some days I’d like to think I’m pretty in sync with His heart. Other days, the stuff of earth is where I find my heart drifting.
So what about you? What lines have you waited in recently? What motivated you to do it? And was the payoff worth the sacrifice of time and energy and effort that you invested?