When my grandfather was growing up -- in the Depression Era -- his father (my great-grandfather, of course) had polio, which left him crippled. He was a farmer, so being crippled was obviously a great hardship. (Somewhere, years ago, I remember seeing an old, old video of my great-grandfather feeding the chickens on his hands and knees).
One of the consequences of my great-grandfather's polio was that my grandfather had to take on a great deal of the responsibility for making the farm run. A heavy responsibility, and a lot of hard work. I'm sure that his work ethic was probably passed on to his children.
During the the Depression Era, there was a year when the crops weren't good, and the family was running desperately short on food. The great dilemma was this: they were running short on potatoes, and had to decide: Are we going to eat the potatoes, or are we going to go hungry so we can plant them for a new crop this spring?
It was a terrible dilemma, which brought them face-to-face with the issue of short-term satisfaction over long-term benefits.
In the end, they did both. My great-grandfather, when he told the story to my father, said "We ate the potatoes, but we peeled them with very thick peelings, and planted them."
And they had the best crop of potatoes ever.
This story is one that demonstrates the concept of delayed gratification; rather than just focusing on the current desire, the family was willing to skimp a bit, and put off what they wanted now in order to reap a greater reward later. It's an ability that is often lacking in our world; we want what we want, and we want it NOW.
Romans 8:24-25 tells us that "hope" is waiting for what we don't yet have, and those who hope wait patiently.
And I find myself thinking: If my family, that lived through the Great Depression, could put up with a little hunger, and wait patiently for the hope of a great new crop of potatoes, what right do I have to be impatient in far-less-life-threatening situations?
It isn't often that I'm awake early enough to hear the birds start singing. I woke up Saturday morning, long before I planned to, for some odd reason. Sometimes my body just does that and I don't know why. All I know is that it has nothing to do with caffeine.
And sometimes I wonder why the birds sing. I've heard that it's because they're happy to see the sun again. Funny thing is, I was able to witness that the singing starts long before the sun is even visible. And yet they sing anyway. They sing in the darkness, because they know it won't stay dark forever. How do they know this? The same way we do:
It would be so easy to sing in the darkness as an act of pity -- to mourn for the pain it is causing us. But the birds aren't doing that, and neither should we. Sing to welcome the sun. Even if you can't quite see it yet.