It Takes Nine Months to Birth a Baby, No Matter How Many Women Are Assigned to the Task

August 10, 2011

I’m currently working my way through the book Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham, and I ran across the quote used in the title of this blog in my reading this morning. Apparently when IBM was trying to make a significant shift in the way they did something, they kept pouring new engineers into the project, and finally someone wrote the CEO with the above quote.

It takes nine months to birth a baby, no matter how many women are assigned to the task.

In other words, there are some things that just cannot be done in an instant.

This microwave culture in which we live has corrupted us in many ways. Sure, the “nuke” can give you dinner in minutes, when it used to take an hour+, but there are some things that settle into our cultural psyche when we get what we want in seconds. As a kid, we had two telephones in the house (admittedly, this was alos the dark ages, when there were four TV stations, and you actually had to get out of the chair to change channels); my Dad taught me that when I called someone, I should let the phone ring ten times (the span of a minute), because it might take someone a while to get to the phone. Of course, this was before answering machines, as well.

In Richard Swenson’s great book Margin, he talks about the development of the automatic dishwasher. It was invented and produced in order to free women (OK, that’s a time-boiund and patriarchial comment, I will admit) from washing dishes after meals. What Swenson points out is that while that freedom was realized, our culture immediately filled it with something else. In other words, while we were supposed to discover margin in life through the dishwasher, it gave us time to accomplish more tasks.

We don’t gather in the kitchen and cook as a family. We don’t work together to clean the dishes (you wash, I’ll dry). We farm out cooking (last night it was Pizza Hut on paper plates at my house), and and avoid conversation by watching TV while we eat. Multitasking becomes the mark of our lives, and recent studies have discovered that while we are doing more, we are actually accomplishing less–and what we accomplish is done with less than stellar results.

We want instant oatmeal, fast weight loss, washboard abs in ten minutes a day, and spiritual maturity in a week.

It just won’t happen that way, folks. Some things just take time.

Case in point: I am getting a new driveway this week. Monday the guys showed up to do the demolition, Tuesday they finished that and built the forms, today they started pouring concrete. The foreman told me this morning that I can drive on it in five to seven days. Five to seven days? I want to park in my garage tonight, for goodness’ sake! But I can’t; and it is because it will take the concrete time to set up, and harden. My father-in-law, a retired commercial contractor, told me once that it takes concrete 28 days to fully harden. It just takes time-no matter how many guys the company sends to work on my driveway, I can’t use it for a while. And I’m OK with that, actually.

I have been following a practice in my daily devotions (the time I spend each day in the early morning hours when I read Scripture, pray, reflect, and journal) this week that I have not used in a while. I am writing out my sins. I sit down, and ask God to let me see my life through His eyes over the last 24 hours. After doing this for three days, I have noticed a disturbing trend: a good bit of anger and frustration, usually rooted in impatience. It has to do with traffic, people beating around the bush, and too many details.  (By the way, I shred what I write, as I ask God to forgive me and to give me freedom from these sins; the sound of the shredder is amazingly liberating!)

I think what I am hearing is the call to “Be still, and know that I am God;” (Psalm 46.10); to relax, and let God work in me.

But I think too, I am hearing the reeminder that God created me as a human being, not a human doer. Our culture so seems to value accomplishment over character, that we are sped along to find value. Value comes through God, and interacting with others, not in plaques (or degrees?) on a wall.

Somehow I have the sneaky suspicion that I am not the only one who is wrestling with this. So slow down, reader, enjoy the life that God has given you.

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