So many palate pleasing foods take time: aged cheese and wine, crusty bread, caramelized onions. Building a house is a never ending stream of time consuming decisions: choose the plan, hire contractors, decide on paint colors. Or watch a small child gazing at the garden where she planted seeds two days earlier: “But where are the carrots?” is her plaintive cry.
If we’re aware of the time necessary for all this, why does it surprise us when growing in the Christian life takes so much longer than desired or expected? We want instant disciples, fully formed at birth, ready to win the world, ingrained habits having evaporated into wispy memories. Why are we taken aback when expectations are unmet?
Friends and I recently walked together through the New Testament book of Luke, especially noting how Jesus lived, how he related to his Father, to his friends, his enemies, to the half hearted and the fully devoted. Of all our discoveries, what struck me most was how Luke emphasizes these time-oriented words in connection with Jesus’ life: then, when, at daybreak, one day, while, yet, one Sabbath, after this, as, meanwhile and many others. Luke records success and stalemate, followers and failures, rejoicing and repenting. Jesus relentlessly, confidently follows his quest to shape twelve men–and many other men and women just outside that inner circle–into world changers, God followers, reflections of his own love.
It’s not wrong to develop and use plans like Twelve Steps to Christian Maturity or The Seven Steps to Discipleship, but I believe we are foolish to believe that completing a course, filling in the blanks, even memorizing a set number of Bible verses will produce men and women who follow hard after the Savior.
In his book Called, Mark Labberton writes, There is waiting and uncertainty. There can be blight and disease. Fruit growing is no simple business organically, nor is it spiritually. Growing fruit that looks like Jesus is a process that takes time, seems slow and can be uncertain. Its full maturity internally takes longer than its external appearance may suggest.
As he prepared to leave their physical presence, did Jesus remind those bewildered, faithless, fearful disciples–now only eleven–and those women and men gathered with them, of his pre-cross words? As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. As you keep my commands, you will remain in my love… Love each other as I have loved you… I chose you so that you might bear fruit… My Father will give you whatever you ask in my name…
These are words unbound by time, yet magnified, even produced, by time. The psalmic poet wrote, Taste and see that the Lord is good. Such tasting is a lifelong process. Don’t hurry it, but always expect the slow satisfaction that comes from God’s rich food.