I made one of my several-times-a-week visits to a Starbucks near where I am both a chaplain and pastor. (I believe most seminaries teach a class on studying in coffee shops. Mine did.)
Anyhow, I noticed something that I think I’ve been missing in most of the places we go that have drive-thru windows. If you’re in the outside line, you get better service. I’ll see eight or ten cars go through and receive their orders while I wait on mine.
On the one hand I get it. They have to keep the line moving. But it’s a bit discouraging to realize that those of us inside who have made the effort to get out of our cars and slow down a little, get treated with less importance then those who are hurrying to the next place or commitment.
And I suppose I should be thankful that it works this way because these facilities are actually helping me slow down! But there’s a bigger point here.
Our culture doesn’t like to wait and many of us have bought into that way of life as the best way. We have Amazon Prime now where our packages come the same day or next at worst. They’re even talking about sending them by drone at some point. Geesh, I hope mine doesn’t get confused with a military drone that ends up sending a heat-seeking missile at my front porch! Either way no waiting.
We can order our food and drinks ahead of time and just pick them up when WE want them. No waiting. We can pay a little extra or become really important so that we don’t have any delay boarding our airplanes. No waiting.
Is there much of anything that you can’t get online without much of a wait? I don’t think so except maybe another child. I’ll wait.
Is there anything wrong with increasing some of our conveniences and helping us avoid so many lines and delays? Of course not. But I think there are some reasons why we shouldn’t always avoid the waiting.
One, waiting can help us learn that everything good in life isn’t necessarily instant. I wonder if young people today are actually learning that if they can’t get something right now – a skill, talent, benefit, gift or whatever – that it isn’t worth having. And yet some of the best, most lasting, inspiring, life-changing moments and experiences can never be instant.
Great paintings, Olympic medals, intimate relationships and miracle producing skills were not obtained in a No Waiting line. They are usually the result of years of work, sweat, practice, training and perseverance.
Two, waiting teaches us to slow down and see some things we might miss by just rushing through. It’s like flying versus driving. There are great benefits to flying but driving lets us see little towns, meet new people and view things from up close at 40 or 60 miles per hour, not four hundred. I think of the people I’ve met along the way in a car or train, the fun signs or little towns we’ve stopped to see or the wildlife that just happened along the way that we would have missed traveling faster.
And even when my slowdown was caused by less desirable circumstances, the waiting has often had special benefits. I remember having to spend the night in Frankfurt, Germany because of missing my flight back to Chicago. However, that evening before I slept I had dinner with a wonderful Austrian man in a small, airport restaurant. That may never happen again and I’m glad I didn’t miss it.
So, okay there are times when the fast lane is best. But remember that waiting may be part of God’s way to slow us down so that we don’t look back on our lives someday and wish we’d seen and experienced all those things that others enjoyed by skipping the drive thru. I think I’ll have another latte – inside.