The other day Stacey and I had some family friends over. Since the day was hot and the kids had been outside for the whole day we wanted to give them some ‘down time’ in the basement, where it was cool and they could calm down for a little.

I suggested a couple of the DVDs that we had, but there was no consensus among the children. Then one of the kids just said, ‘Let’s watch something on Netflix!’ I don’t know why it surprised me. After all, our own kids watch things on Netflix fairly regularly, but coming from a child in another family it just hit me how quickly kids become familiar with new technology and new opportunities for entertainment.

Apparently kids aren’t alone, either. Last month (June 2012), Netflix streamed over 1 billion hours of programming into households around the world. That is a lot of entertainment. it puts Netflix at the forefront of all entertainment products and providers in our world today.

The Evolution of Entertainment Eliminates Waiting

Remember cassette tapes? Remember how we used to have try to fast forward and rewind to find our songs? Remember the frustration of getting a video from the rental store, only to find out that the last person had not remembered to ‘be kind and please rewind’? How frustrating to have to wait to watch your movie while the tape rewound! Or how about watching TV shows before PVRs? Remember when we used to have to wait for commercials to be done instead of just fast-forwarding through them?

So technology advanced and with the advent of DVDs and CDs there was no more rewinding. No more waiting. And with PVRs, even waiting through those little breaks in the middle of your entertainment is removed.

And Netflix is the next stage in that entertainment evolution that eliminates the ‘weak gene’ of waiting. Any show, any movie, any time, no waiting.

What ‘No-Wait’ Entertainment Means for Kids

For us as parents, this is great. It means that when we need the kids to be entertained for a time, there is an easy option. But it also provides challenges. As Tim Challies taught us in The Next Story, for every benefit that a new technology offers, there is also a cost.

For kids who grow up in a world of no-wait entertainment, the need for patience and opportunities to develop it become increasingly rare. And patience won’t develop in people naturally. So if our kids are going to ever learn to be patient, we will need to be more intentional and deliberate in creating opportunities to demonstrate and teach the value of patience.

Thankfully, There’s the Gospel

Of course, patience is so much more than just a virtue or a character trait. It runs against the very nature of our sinful hearts. Patience is not something that can merely be learned; in its truest form, patience is a fruit of the Spirit, and comes to us only in and through the gospel of Jesus Christ. For Christian parents, then, this is just another parenting need met by gospel-application.

The gospel itself is a story of patience. God waited patiently, enduring thousands of years of human sin and rebellion before finally bringing the fullness of his just wrath to bear on his Son, that he might display his righteousness to all (Rom 2.4-5; Rom 3.23-26). And even now, God waits patiently, enduring the ongoing rebellion of his creatures, hoping and longing for the fullness of his children to be saved (2 Pet 3.8-10).

And the promises of God have always called forth patient endurance from his people. From Adam & Eve, to Noah, to Abraham, to the nation of Israel, the promises of God have come in time rather than with immediate fulfillment. And the New Testament people of God are no different. We ‘wait eagerly’ (Rom 8.23) for the fullness of redemption that will come with the return of Jesus.

And So We Must Speak

Regardless of culture, regardless of time, and regardless of entertainment choices, the problems we face as parents are never merely issues of vice, virtue, behaviour or performance. They are heart issues in need of gospel-correction. As our kids grow up in a world that will not demand patience of them, we must show them how God does demand patience, and their falling short of his demands is sin.

We must show them the good news that God has been (and is being) patient with us. And we must show them that his patience, rightly received must always compel Spirit-given, grace-motivated, counter-cultural patience from us. And as God works in our lives and in the lives of our kids to make us patient in the midst of a world of dark impatience, we’ll shine like stars (Phil 2.14-16), reflecting our heavenly Father (Matt 5.16).