The air that we breath is an air that assumes the importance of efficiency. “Work smarter not harder” could be our mantra: we want the results of two hours in the gym in 10 minutes; we want our food order to be placed, to be fresh, and to be on our table in five minutes. Businessmen balk at ‘wasting time’ and a grocery store brouhaha will take place if there is a long line and one cashier! Kevin DeYoung noted, “We have more opportunity than ever before. The ability to cheaply go anywhere is a recent development. The ability to get information from anywhere is, too. … The result, then, is simple but true: because we can do so much, we do do so much” Why? Because we love efficiency! Most would admit that everything in us chides with wasting time or the ultimate ‘no-no’ of inefficiency. If I were to tell you the long route to go somewhere when I knew a shorter route, you would probably Darth-Vader choke me in your mind! Now think of the way that affects our relationships.
Effects of Efficiency on our Relationships
Efficiency has the tendency to damage our relationships, instead of enhancing them. We want to communicate efficiently but now the god of efficiency has claimed another relationship. Think of how text messaging how changed the environment of relationships. I can now ask you something I need, without greeting you, asking about your day, or if you have a moment to talk. Scary! And now this can be the new normal.
How would God want us to think about efficiency and its effect on our relationships? First of all, it’s important to note good relating took place before the Internet! And even before telephones! What!? I know, crazy right? God has not called us to high-output, low waste. Rather, He has called us to fruitfulness (John 15:8). Moreover, this fruitfulness can entail what might seem in modern times as wasteful.
For instance, why didn’t Jesus live in the technological era? Why wasn’t the “Road to Emmaus” the “Metro to Emmaus.” He could have hosted a radio show, or built an epic, online resource center! What a waste, right? Not always.
Now think of the implications for those relationships closest to you: perhaps you could currently talk more throughout the day with another person, but does that mean your communication is deeper, or more haphazard and surface-level? We have efficiency, but we lack fruitfulness most times! I find that communication availability does not equate to genuine communication. In fact, many couples I counsel speak all throughout their day without any depth of conversation. Efficiency has truncated fruitfulness. In the Army I would regularly get emails from other co-workers on the other side of the office!
Efficiency is not wrong, but it is not ultimate. In fact, it is not always best—especially in our relationships. Here are some practical steps as we seek to balance efficiency in our relationships.
Practical Steps to Promote Fruitful Relationships
- Distance yourself from the god of efficiency: We worship efficiency and balk at inefficiency. Yet, in our relationships we must seek to recognize that efficiency is not ultimate. If you have ever listened to a child read a book you understand that, yes, you could read it faster but that isn’t the point. Commit yourself to what is good in your relationships (Luke 10:42), not what is efficient.
- Be great at a few relationships instead of mediocre at many. Jesus embodied that over three years He would invest in three men (Mark 9:2) instead of meeting weekly with different men. Let’s invest into a few good relationships, too.
- Be where you are, with whom you are … . Sitting in a Subway restaurant with Richard Ganz he said, “You know who are the most important people right now? You guys are.” He understood that God’s providence places us with people. So be there with them. Put away the phone. Turn off the TV. Send the kids outside. Be there, with them, not there around them.
- Lastly, realize it is okay to not respond to a phone call, voicemail, or text message. One of the obligations of our society seems to be if an acquaintance texts us, we must text them back, quickly. Don’t let your fear of man drive your availability (Prov. 29:25) to man. You must respond to certain people, but others can wait. If we are going to be fruitful in a few relationships, it means that we must ‘push back’ other relationships. Our neighbor from three years ago may not hear back from us for a few days—that’s okay.
We can find a certain freedom in being intentionally inefficient with some things because we want to be extraordinarily fruitful in those things. Therefore, let us choose that which chides within us: let us choose inefficiency for the sake of greater fruitfulness.
 Kevin DeYoung, Crazy Busy (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013), 24.