An Old-Time Fast Food Shop

by Glenn Conjurske

Modern technology has flooded the world with a million “time-savers”—-with gadgets and appliances and machines of every possible description, which enable us to do almost everything in a small fraction of the time it used to take. We have automobiles and airplanes, sewing machines and washing machines, power saws and copy machines, telephones and computers—-in short, some modern convenience with which to do everything which may or must be done, and usually to do it in a small fraction of the time it took our grandparents.

Not only so, but almost everything which our grandparents were required to do for themselves we find already done for us. The pioneers who built America cut their own logs and built their own houses, cleared their own land, raised their own food, raised their own cotton and wool, spun their own thread, wove their own cloth, and made their own clothes, and washed them without a washing machine—-and all of these tasks were performed without the aid of electrical power, and certainly without most of the machines and appliances which exist today. We find all of this done for us. We may go to the store and find ready-made clothes and shoes, and ready-made food of every description, boxed, bottled, or canned, so that we have nothing to do but open and eat it, or at the most heat it up first—-and that may be done in a minute in a microwave oven. We may, if we please, have “minute rice” and “minute oats,” “instant coffee” and “instant potatoes,” “pre-cooked” meat, and bread and cheese which are already sliced.

In short, everything about us is calculated to save time, so that we may now accomplish a dozen or a hundred tasks in the same time it required for our ancestors to accomplish one. We may now travel in an hour the distance which once required a whole day. We may make a thousand copies of a letter or paper in less time than it once took to make one. Most everything which must be done may now be done by the turn of a switch or the push of a button. Everything is “twist-off,” and “pop-off,” and “snap-on,” and “quick and easy”—-or “instant”—-and machines and computers and gadgets of every description are all rated by their speed. We must have “drive-up” mail boxes, and “drive-in” banks, for to get out of the car and walk inside is altogether too slow.

Now we might suppose the effect of all this would be to give to modern man an unhurried life, a life of abundant leisure and quiet, but its actual effect has been just the reverse. What have our time-savers saved us?
I once worked a couple of days making hay on a ranch in the mountains of Colorado, and learned that the folks who had claimed their homestead there a generation ago went to town to go shopping once a year. The trip took several days. If we may now make the trip in a tenth or a hundredth of the time, what have we gained if we must make it ten times as often, or a hundred times? The real effect of all of this has been to rob us of quiet and solitude. We may not be able to divine exactly how or why it is, but it is a fact that in spite of all our modern time-savers, modern life is extremely hurried. The whole country is always in a bustle, always rushing, always in a hurry. Half the energies of the nation’s police force must be expended in endeavoring to enforce speed limits, and the world is very impatient of a man who actually drives so slow as the speed limit. We must have express lanes and passing lanes. The modern technology which has done so much to conserve man’s time has also set him upon such a mad pursuit of goods and pleasures that he scarcely knows what leisure is.

Now the epitome of this modern hurried life is the fast food shop. Restaurants have existed for centuries, but in restaurants men must wait while their food is prepared. This waiting does not very well comport with the bustle and hurry of modern life, so that now most conventional restaurants exist almost exclusively for the purpose of recreational dining out rather than for any necessity. For necessary eating, the fast food shop is the modern way. There we may find every item on the menu ready and waiting. And most of these fast food shops now have “drive-through” lanes, where folks may get their meal in a minute, without ever leaving their automobiles. This is the epitome of the modern hurried life.

But I wish to conduct my readers to an old-time fast food shop, with the hope that it may be my good fortune—-and theirs—-that I may so present its charms that they may be moved to say with me, The old is better.

We read in Genesis 18, “And the Lord appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre, and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; and he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him; and when he saw them, he RAN to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself to the ground, and said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant. Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on, for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said. And Abraham HASTENED into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready QUICKLY three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. And Abraham RAN unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man, and he HASTED to dress it. And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.”

The first thing which appears here is the unhurried life of those times. Abraham “sat in the tent door in the heat of the day.” This is a thing of the past. The modern hurried life has no place for it—-no time for it. Yet here it was that Abraham could think and pray. Here it was that he could be with God and walk with God. And here it was that “the Lord appeared unto him.” Here is the real glory of the simple and unhurried life. It was while he was tending his father-in-law’s flock in the backside of the desert that the Lord appeared to Moses. Where does the Lord appear to men today? Not, we may surely say, in the bustle of department stores and fast food shops, not in the midst of whirring machines and ringing irons, not in bustling crowds and traffic jams, nor will his still, small voice compete with the noise and chatter of the radio, whether Christian or secular. “Study to be quiet,” the Scripture says, for this is good for the soul, and the Lord loves quiet. The Lord loves the mountain top, the sea side, the back side of the desert, the door of the tent. The unhurried and uncluttered life opens the door for the visits of the Lord, for it opens our ears and our hearts to his still, small voice.

But Abraham could hurry when occasion called for it. Only let a stranger appear at the door of his tent, and he is all bustle. All of this running and hastening was the expression of the hospitality which belonged to the unhurried life of those times. This is also largely a thing of the past. Men today do not wish their hurried and cluttered lives to be interrupted. A stranger at the door is an unwelcome intruder. He has come to rob us of a bit of that precious time which our myriad of times-savers have saved for us. Men must live by the clock today. We must work by the clock, eat by the clock—-even preach by the clock, and worship the Lord by a schedule. The all-night sermon of the apostle Paul would not be tolerated today, nor would the two-hour sermons of Peter Cartwright or Christmas Evans. Men must dole out their time by measure even to their friends, lest their sacred schedule should be interrupted.

Not so the Lord, who always had time for everybody. He lived the unhurried life, and did not regard the many applications to him for help as intrusions or interruptions. He cultivated and encouraged that life in his disciples. He commended his dear Mary, who had chosen the good part, to sit at his feet and hear his word, while he reproved the hurried and cluttered way of Martha, who was “careful and troubled about many things.” Alas, the whole world and the whole church is now careful and troubled about many things. It seems to me that one of the main reasons that life in modern times is so hurried is simply that it is so cluttered—-simply that we have so “many things” to be “careful and troubled” about. Modern technology and industry have filled the world with an inundation of goods, such as none of our forefathers ever possessed or dreamed of. It seems to be the universal assumption that since those goods exist, we must have them, and it is a certainty that if we have them, they clutter our lives and hearts and minds. We may now do everything in a fraction of the time it took our ancestors, but we have a thousand things to do which they never dreamed of. No doubt we thereby multiply our experiences and pleasures, but this is at the expense of quiet and solitude, and it is therefore certainly at the expense of the one thing needful. For the sake of what may be good we deprive ourselves of what is certainly better, “for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” (Luke 12:15). We have a myraid of conveniences and time-savers, every one of which requires money to buy, which requires time to earn. Every one of them requires time to use, time and care and money to maintain, and a place to be kept, and all together they clutter our minds and hearts as well as our houses. Men must now “get away” from home in order to obtain a little of that quiet which home itself ought to afford them.

Behold the prophet’s chamber, which the woman of Shunem designed for Elisha: “Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick; and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither.” (II Kings 4:10). A “little chamber” was sufficient for this, but who could be content with such furnishings today? I am quite amazed at the size of the log cabins in which many of the early settlers of this land lived. I ran across the ruins of one in the woods a couple of years ago, which measured about twelve by fifteen feet. No doubt this little cabin sufficed its inhabitants precisely because they had no superabundance of goods with which to fill it. Yet they doubtless had a quiet and unhurried life, in an idyllic meadow in the woods, where I myself have delighted to spend some hours alone with my God and my books.

What charm there was in the simple life of old times! Yet it is not the charm of such a life which I wish to commend, but the advantage—-unhurried and uncluttered, with few goods to care for, with time on our hands to sit in the door of the tent in the heat of the day, or walk in the fields and meditate in the cool of the day, time for thought and time for prayer, time for friends and time for strangers, time for God and time for eternity. There is little of this left on the earth today.

Now to return to the old-time fast food shop, Abraham could hasten to prepare the meal, but this was to gain the more leisure for the enjoyment of it. “Rest yourselves under the tree,” he says, and “Comfort ye your hearts.” Here is unhurried fellowship. I confess that one of the chief longings of my own heart is for unhurried fellowship. We have little of it left on the earth, and this to me is one of the chief charms of heaven. And such fellowship is figured in the Scriptures by dining. I had a teacher at Bible school who used to speak scornfully of church dinners. He would say, “That is not fellowship, it is bellyship.” Yet eating is precisely the figure of fellowship in the Bible. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” So the “church dinners” of the early church were called “love feasts” or “feasts of charity,” for these were times of fellowship. The dinner hour at home was doubtless once upon a time also a time of unhurried fellowship, and we suppose this is the reason the Scriptures employ it as the emblem of fellowship. In modern times, however, the clock and the schedule have so interfered with the dinner hour that it is as hurried as the rest of the day, and there is little fellowship in it. The atmosphere of the fast food shop has too much encroached upon the fellowship hour at home, and members of the same family and household often scarcely know each other. This is really too bad. Perhaps I was born too soon—-or too late!—-but somehow I feel that “The old is better.”

And I have no doubt that in this I have the mind of the Lord. Do we not certainly know that the old ways will be brought back to the earth under the reign of Christ? The world will be destroyed in the day of the Lord. The description which we have in Revelation 18 of the destruction of Babylon is not a description of the destruction of sinners, but of wealth and luxury, and of “merchandise.” And in Isaiah 2 we are told that “The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of man shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up, and he shall be brought low. … And upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall, and upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all the pleasant pictures; and the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.” The works of man will be destroyed, and the simple life which God established on the earth restored. “They shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree.” (Micah 4:4).

What then do I suggest? That we divest ourselves altogether of modern conveniences and appliances, and return altogether to the old ways? No, for such a course would generally be attended with more trouble than it were worth. Yet we may resist the encroachments of modern hurry and bustle, and “Study to be quiet.” We may seek quiet and solitude and leisure—-and not to play, I need hardly say, but to commune with our own hearts, to read and meditate and pray, and to walk with God.

Glenn Conjurske