My favorite restaurant around home is a barbecue joint! And like most good barbecue joints they slow cook the meat at a low temperature for a long time to make it nice and tender, only throwing it on the grill to sear in the flavor just before it is served. Man, that’s good stuff!
I thought about that yesterday after a phone call from someone struggling to find others near her on a relational journey. She had just moved recently across the country and she said frustratingly, “It’s been two and a half months and I don’t see anything happening yet!”
Now, before you think ill of me, I understand her frustration. I really do. I remember being there at so many places in my life where, wondering where God was if I didn’t see stuff happening as fast as I wanted. Somehow I got the mistaken notion that just because something had happened yet, it was proof that it never would, or that I wasn’t part of a longer (read, slower) process that would really produce the fruit of God’s kingdom in my life. But I knew something had changed in me as I listened to this woman. I almost busted out laughing and had to choke it down knowing my laughter would be misunderstood. When I told Sara about the phone call over dinner, she did bust out laughing. “Two and half months? That’s nothing!”
See, we know that now. We didn’t know it years ago, but living now in the beauty of God’s unfolding work in our lives (and being in our 50s here probably doesn’t hurt) we know the best things in our life were produced in a slow-cooking process of God transforming us at a deeper level so that we could enjoy the fruit of what he wanted to produce in us. Whether it was setting us free in a broken area, drawing us closer to his presence, or connecting us to other brothers and sisters for rich rich fellowship and doing things in God together, none of those things happened quickly. But they did happen deeply and we’re now experiencing the riches of those things.
Remember we serve a God who told Abraham 25 years early that he would have a son and he would become a great nation. Abraham thought that would happen immediately and was frustrated by the promise when month after month it was clearly not happening. He even tried to fulfill the promise his own way. But if you read his story you’ll see that the frustration of an unfulfilled promise did its work in him, bringing Abraham into a deep and abiding faith in who God is. We may think God makes promises to torture us. God actually makes them so we can relax in the moment and let him fulfill his purpose in his time.
Tough lesson. That’s why I didn’t want to laugh at someone who thought two and a half months was more than enough time to give rise to significant and authentic body life around her in a new location. Now I’m not saying God can’t do it that fast and I do know people who spilled into realities like that almost on a whim. But most of us know that is the exception rather than the rule. Our God does slow-cooking. That’s not because he likes our discontent, but because he wants to bear the fruit in us that remains, an that means the slow, deep transformation that rises from the core of our being, not just throwing us a bone to keep us quiet every time we get frustrated.
Someone wrote me this morning with an observation his wife shared the other day: “The journey is in the journey.” We are so focused on the destination we too often miss the joy of the process. Isn’t God’s promise to us specifically designed to help us relax and just ride out our life in him today, instead of being so frustrated at what he hasn’t seemingly done yet!
If you’re going to enjoy this life in him, that’s something you’re going to want him to teach you. Otherwise you’ll be counting days and fighting off frustration at every turn. Father knows everything about you and where you are today. He knows what he is doing in you to open the real doors into that life in him you’ve been praying about for years. He is doing his work in you to bring that to fruition. Unfortunately, it’s just probably going to take a whole lot longer than you’re thinking it will. But if your eyes are on him, rather than on the outcome, the delay won’t matter. In fact it will only make the final result so much more tasty and succulent.