I’m always telling my children to be patient.
“You don’t need that this very moment! STOP DEMANDING EVERYTHING THE SECOND YOU WANT IT!”
Funny though, I only learned the true beauty of delayed gratification about 5 years ago, at the age of 32. I lost approxiamtely sixty pounds over a course of some time through delaying what usually feels like something I deserve: comfort. I had never had to delay myself before, intentionally. I rarely had to hold back in situations when I could freely take/consume or get something I desired in that moment. Through a journey with my health, I learned that just because I can, doesn’t mean I should. I learned that I’m inherently selfish (aren’t we all?) and I want what I want, when I want it. It took re-training my eye to recognize it because I actually thought, as many of us do, that I wasn’t selfish. We give to others, open our home, are kind with our time. But I recognized that when it comets patience, I was selfish. I wanted the things I wanted, when I wanted them. I knew nothing of delayed gratification. I didn’t understand why it was important to have.
I then was forced (by order of a doctor who knew I wanted to get pregnant again), to lose weight. I was at an unhealthy point in my life, and I had gained unwanted pounds, during a bizarre life season. It took hard work and being very cautious with my choices. For the first time in my life, I was denying myself things I wanted (or thought I wanted) in order to reach some illusive goal. I didn’t know where I was going but I was mad about it most of the time. I was having to deny myself! I was having to say no to things I should be able to enjoy and have! It seems silly now, but I was very much in that place.
A year later, sixty pounds lighter, I got it. I had delayed gratification because I was reaching for something more important. And once I felt that ridiculously satisfying feeling, it’s been more difficult to stomach when my selfishness and impatience has reared its ugly head, in the past few years.
It has been a gift to clearly observe my lack of patience in many areas – my parenting, our educating the girls at home (this one is really hard at times, because the delayed gratification is quite a ways off, to some degree), my mental and emotional health, and most importantly, my walk with the Lord. After a spiritual dry spell, I will sit down with my Bible and expect the Lord to speak loudly into my ears and tell me all the things I need and must do. It’s ludicrous, impatient and selfish, and yet I’ll do it over and over again. Just like my children. When will I really grow up?
But I’m getting better.
And that’s where the “Europe 2025” jar serves as a handy daily reminder.
We often think about taking our girls (and ourselves) on a several week European vacation. We have many places we’ve studied and learned about and are chomping at the bit to see many historical locations. We talk about walking down cobblestone streets, enjoying gelato, and flying on jet planes. Of course, every family must decide when it is best and wisest to make this huge investment and for us, a trip of that grandeur seems to be a bit of a ways off. To the tune of almost a decade or so. And that’s fine. More than fine actually. Many people have never been to Europe and many will never go – I’m well aware of the privilege that accompanies even being able to dream of this possibility. However, with air travel as accessible as it is these days, it seems be at our fingertips, doesn’t it? (We can fool ourselves into thinking anything is normal, can’t we?)
But. Delayed gratification. It’s good for me. For all of us. Patience and watching the Lord move in His timing is a constant reminder that we are not in control. For people like myself, that reminder is very healthy and needed. I can always do with being brought down a few rungs – I generally find pleasure in having my ducks in a row, so the Lord gently (and sometimes not so) show me that He has ultimate say in my life, is a very good thing.
So, our family has the “Europe Jar”. It sits in our laundry room and has been there for years. We’ve filled it up twice already. We save every spare coin we come across. Literally, my girls will run across the street to grab a penny on the ground! And we throw it in the jar, reminded that we don’t get everything we want, when we want it. It’s been a good lesson for my girls, also. Who knows, maybe a huge family emergency will arise and the Europe Jar will end up going towards something much more worthwhile. That would be another wonderful lesson, wouldn’t it? For now, my girls are seeing that you don’t get everything you want, the moment you want it. Or even a year after you want it. Often, you wait. Through the waiting, you can either grind your teeth and be bitter at what others have that you don’t, OR you can cultivate a grateful and patient heart.
I want the latter for my girls (and myself) much, much more than I could ever want a trip to Europe.