It turns out that a scientist can see the future by watching four-year-olds interact with a marshmallow. The researcher invites the children, one by one, into a plain room and begins the gentle torment. “You can have this marshmallow right now,” he says. “But if you wait while I run an errand, you can have two marshmallows when I get back.” And then he leaves.
Some children grab the treat he minute he’s out the door. Some last a few minutes before they give in. But others are determined to wait. They cover their eyes; they put their heads down; they sing to themselves; they try to play games or even fall asleep. When the researcher returns, he gives these children their hard-earned marshmallows. And then, science waits for them to grow up.
By the time the children reach high school, something remarkable has happened. A survey of the children’s parents and the teachers found that those who as four-year-olds had the fortitude to hold out for the second marshmallow generally grew up to be better adjusted, more popular, adventurous, confident and dependable teenagers. The children who gave in to temptation early on were more likely to be lonely, easily frustrated and stubborn. They buckled under stress and shied away from challenges.
Of course, the moral of the story is that developing the character necessary to delay gratification in small areas can translate into great success in other areas. They overcame their urge to eat the marshmallow because they had faith – they could envision the moment when the nice man in the white coat would come back with two marshmallows. They persevered because they trusted.
God’s ultimate plan was as far beyond our imaginings as the oak tree is from the acorn’s imaginings.