"Father, I need your help!" He was almost frantic on the phone. A bad situation had occurred in his family, and they needed some advice as to how to deal with it. It was the middle of the night, so it took me a couple minutes to get ready, but I headed over there as quickly as I could. Suffice it to say, the situation was quite challenging, and I was glad to be able to provide some immediate advice to help out.
The next day, however, was when the real challenge came. He called again, and said "I don't want this to happen ever again; how do I fix this?" We sat down to discuss it later that afternoon. After a good deal of talking over the situation, I felt I had a good understanding of what the problems were. He asked again: "just tell me what to do to fix this". It was a hard question to answer because we were dealing with a family, not with a car. It was not like I could say "you need new brakes". We were dealing with relationships, personalities, and spiritual dynamics.
When I gave a brief outline of a way forward, his response was the last thing I wanted to hear at that moment. "Sorry, Father, I didn't mean I wanted something long and drawn out; I want to fix this today." I tried and tried to get the point across to him that there was no "easy fix" to a problem this complicated. It had to be dealt with through a series of different actions, and even then there was no guarantee. Needless to say, he did not like that. I wrote down the basic "plan of attack" and gave it to him. Things went from bad to worse in that household, and he told me months later that he never implemented the plan I suggested to him--too "involved" he said (!).
We live in an "instant" culture that expects everything to be repaired at a moment's notice. This is hard to avoid when we realize that t.v. has taught us that virtually all family problems can be solved in less than a half hour (and when not, they are solved in the "to be continued" episode next week). This is not how relations work, nor is it how our spirituality works. There are no lists in the Scriptures of "five easy steps for a great family" nor any "quick fixes" for relational problems. There are, however, numerous guidelines for parenting and marriage; there is the wisdom literature of the Old Testament; and, of course, there is the simple practice of penitence and the sacrament of confession.
Yet, that stuff all takes a long time to implement, and we want everything done quickly and with virtually no effort. "Just tell me how to fix this now!" We acknowledge the need for something to be done, but we are not content with a process. There is, of course, a reason that things are this way. We are fallen, and that means that our skulls are thick, and our hearts are hard. Jesus said "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak"; and sometimes the spirit is weak as well (especially when we have bought into the idea that instant gratification is our God-given right!). This means that just like it takes time to create a beautiful work of art, it also takes time to re-create a human soul.
So how do you deal with problems? Do you look for the quickest way to solve it, or do you look for the way that will have the most long-lasting effects? Are you willing to do the harder work one time, rather than do the easy work (and have to repeat it over and over)? God has made us to seek after Him, and He has created us in this time-bound world. This means that things take time; and the best things take more time. How will you work on your marriage? your children's faith? your performance at work? your school assignments? If it is only a "fix it now" perspective, we might succeed, but probably not. If, however, it is a persevering and enduring perspective (one that is willing to work for the long haul), then God will stay with us, and that will help us stay with Him; forever.