How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
In the movie Grand Torino there is an older man, Walt Kowalski. who is mentoring a younger man of his neighborhood, Thao Lor. There is a scene in the move where Thao is in Walt’s garage and notices all the tools. Recognizing the quantity of the equipment in the shop, Thao asks Walt where he got all the tools. Walt looked and Thao sternly and said, “It took a lifetime.”
One at a time, little bit by little bit. Delayed gratification.
We live in a instant gratification culture. If we don’t get what we desire immediately we become frustrated or move onto the next big thing.
Patience is a quality that has been lost in our consumerism.
“Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.” (Proverbs 13:11, ESV)
This is a principle that applies to many things in life, not just building wealth.
My wife has been using a phrase around our home lately as we are focusing our energy on things that will take time to build. She says, “Weeds grow quickly; we don’t want weeds.” Our desire is to put in the work for things to grow healthy and stable. We want to pour our lives into things that will stand the test of time.
Our culture has made everything about you – your gratification. In doing so it has made it easy to ditch whatever it is you are frustrated with and move on.
- If you don’t like your school, transfer.
- If you are frustrated with your church, there is another one down the road.
- If you aren’t happy with your job, get a new one.
- If you and your wife aren’t getting along, get a divorce.
- If you don’t like your neighbors, move.
Of course, these changes only offer temporarily relief. The common denominator of all my problems is me and the common denominator of all your problems is you. Changing your circumstances rarely changes anything. Most often the problems that we are facing within all these situations are reflections of own inadequacies and the restlessness of our souls.
The saddest part is that when you run from a situation you may be undermining what God wants to do in your life. It seems the most powerful work God does in a person’s life is not done in removing him or her from a situation but seeing them through through the situation. God desires for your faith to be complete, not lacking anything. However, the only way that can happen is through trials.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2–4, ESV)
The overnight success is a myth. We believe it because we only see them after they have climbed the mountain. We don’t see the times they wanted to give up. We don’t see the frustration, the tears, the setbacks. the fighting and the tenacity. We only see them after they have struggled for years or decades. Nobody notices on the way up.
What are you investing in? The place where you:
- Want to quit
- Are wondering if it’s worth it
- Aren’t seeing any fruit
- Where nobody sees your sacrifices
- Are left exhausted
It’s worth it. One step at a time. Little bit by little bit. Delayed gratification.
It’s worth it because of what you are building. However, more importantly, it’s worth it because of who you must become to make it happen.