We had to replace our refrigerator this year. Serving the ice cream semi-soft is one thing, but pouring ice cream into a bowl and not a milkshake glass is something else all together. The dearly departed fridge lasted all of nine years. We bought it when we bought our first house together; it resided in two houses in Wisconsin and one in Portland, and then it died a fairly painless but noisy death. When one’s refrigerator dies suddenly, one really cannot spend weeks researching a new model. A quick look at Consumer Reports and a visit to Sears and three days later, a new fridge.
Here’s something we learned from the experience: they no longer make refrigerators that last twenty years, at least not any that are affordable. We anticipate our new one will last another eight to ten years, and then we will fork over a grand or two for a new one. I am not pleased about that. Nor am I pleased that things like cell phones and computers don’t last more than three to five years. Short-lived appliances are a new trend and if Jesus were around today he might say it’s a sign of the impending apocalypse.
There’s talk in church and other circles these days about nimbleness – nimble leaders who can change hats quickly, congregations that adapt to 21st church, nimble decision-making processes that are not subject to arduous months of meetings and Robert’s Rules of Order. I am all for nimbleness. I said to my husband the other day, “After twenty-one years of committee meetings, I would be happy if I never had to go to another one.” Committee meetings, board meetings, session and presbytery and synod and General Assembly meetings can be productive, but rarely have I seen them exhibit nimbleness.
Is there a connection between nimbleness and short-lived-ness? One could say we made our refrigerator-buying decision nimbly, and in eight to ten years we will be nimble again. But will a decision that is made nimbly prove to be long-lived? Is there merit in taking our time about some things, or is the deliberate pace merely an excuse for how very long it takes to turn an ocean liner around?
If manufacturers took more time to make appliances, would they last longer? Has technology become our master, and are we subject to the almost daily innovations that lead to faster connection speeds, more apps, and a greater variety of bells and whistles?