A few weeks ago, I wrote about how fast the world moves and how difficult it can be to keep track of it. As the world zooms by us, though, I think the deep work of God in community grounds us. Unfortunately (or fortunately), it does not move quite as fast.
I think as a result of how quickly the world moves and how demanding it makes us, we don’t have a lot of time to hold space and move slowly. I know I’m always trying to go a mile-a-minute, work as efficiently as possible. And sometimes I even feel bad about my lack of capacity! (And my friends tell me I have a lot.)
One of the cooking magazines I subscribed to recently sent out a survey to its readers. I check my spam folder, actually, so I took it. (Side note: I don’t mind getting email from people trying to sell me things—I guess I missed that aspect of millennial life.) The bulk of the survey was inquiring about how we use time, how long we expect to cook for, what constitutes a “weaknight” meal for us. I like those questions, but the basic idea was: we know your lives are too full and you don’t have time to cook, how much cooking can we get away with putting in our magazines? I guess everyone still wants microwave dinners (at least that’s what makes Trader Joe’s a killing).
Good cooking is all about waiting. Letting the collagen break down at a lower temperature will ensure moist and tender meat. Let your onions caramelize slowly or they’ll burn. Letting the dough ferment overnight in the fridge will deepen flavor. And letting your roast or casserole rest will give you neater slices. Take your time. Don’t slice too fast, or it might take your finger with it. These slow activities help me wait for the Lord to move. They soften my heart. Glory is coming. We wait patiently now. Patiently, impatient, as we say around here.
I like the slower movement (although sometimes a quick dinner is nice). But I’m learning that many times slowness teaches us patience and process. We are hoping that trusting the process helps some of our Philadelphia sports teams, but in general, I think that trusting the process is good.
The work of the Spirit is slow. Or at least slower than a microwave. But I think the connection that we share in community, to a cell, to a congregation at large actually greatly speeds up our development. But it seems comparatively slower. That’s mainly because I think our lightning-fast world forces us to adapt to it instead of developing and growing. We work to keep up, but we can’t slow down to grow and deepen.
We work more like a plant. Our faith is like a seed. When we bear fruit, it is like a miracle, but when we keep checking to see if any roots have planted, we stall the process. Patience bears fruit. The Bible is full of passages about patience, but for the occasion of the Roman church, they were indeed waiting for hope.
Life for early Christians in imperial Rome wasn’t exactly dandy. It was probably written during the reign of one of the more maniacal emperors of Rome, Nero. Nero was an infamous Christian killer; so you can imagine the patience that the Roman Christians had to endure despite their suffering. Paul tells them they are saved in hope and that glorification will come.
We were saved in hope. If we see what we hope for, that isn’t hope. Who hopes for what they already see? But if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:24-25)
We patiently wait for hope, in which we are saved. We wait for fullness and wholeness to come. And we slowly, gradually work for it on earth. The thing we are doing is incremental. And suffer at how slow it is, don’t we? I hope you can hold the space for your pain. Pain at the injustice in the whole world, but also the injustice that you face. It might be cosmic or existential suffering—you might be distressed at our President or local law enforcement. It might be personal though: a bad boss, an abusive parent, a narcissistic friend. It might be a matter of forgiveness and reconciliation. It might be a bad break up. Healing, wholeness, and forgiveness take time. And the tide against them—to quick fixes like violence and succumbing to hatred—is strong. It’s hard to resist.
Your very existence, though, and your refusal to take the easy way out is one that you’ll develop. When you experience an injustice, and you move toward love, toward forgiveness, and toward reconciliation—no matter how long it takes—your soul is deepening and developing.
Endure the suffering that comes with life on earth and life with people that have hurt you. Set the boundaries you need to. But take heart as you patiently wait for hope and wholeness. The world may make it seem like it will happen right away—because everything else is—but take heart in knowing that the work is slow.
The work we do is slow, but keeping it at will benefit us in the long run. Don’t stop watering because your plant isn’t growing. Keep your disciplines intact. Keep doing the basics. Keep loving. Keep forgiving. Be gentle with yourself and with others. You’re worth it. The world will keep racing and it won’t slow down until it uses up the entire planet. But keep waiting. God is waiting with you.