When I lived in in Chicago, my neighbors cooked real barbecue. Not the “sloppy joes” that passes for “barbecue” in Pennsylvania (where I live), or the 15-minutes-on-the grill treatment that most of us do at backyard cookouts. I’m talking about nice cuts of meat barbecued s-l-o-w-l-y to tasty perfection.
An African American family originally from the South, my neighbors did it the right way. Their “barbecue day” began after breakfast, with a small charcoal fire in the big cooker, into which they placed pork, chicken, beef, sausage and hot dogs, all slathered in succulent sauce.
All day long my neighbors kept the fire low. When it was finally ready, their barbecue was tender, juicy and out-of-this-world tasty.
The time and the process of slow-cooking give real barbecue its amazing texture and flavor. Sure, the meat could cook in 15 or 20 minutes, but it wouldn’t be the same. Gradual cooking over many hours transforms ordinary supermarket meat into the delicacy known as barbecue. It cannot be rushed.
Slow-cooking is a great a way of preparing food, but it also serves as a good philosophy for life, and especially the Christian life. The wise person gives time for everything worthwhile. Most goals are best accomplished at a slow and steady pace. And rushing can actually harm some things, such as intimate relationships.
The slow approach is out of sync with our microwave world. We want things NOW — if not sooner, and we are accustomed to getting them.
We expect instant downloads on our computer, super-fast Internet connections, movies-on-demand from our cable company, wi-fi everywhere, crash diets, fast food, drive-through pharmacies, fast-acting pain relievers, online banking, pizza delivered to our home in 30 minutes, next-day shipping, and on and on. We are conditioned to rush.
Our conditioning has taught us to be impatient and grumpy when our needs are not met quickly or our goals take too long. When we hit delays, we get huffy, loose interest and move on.
Problems arise when we apply this attitude to our lives of faith, expecting that God will work quickly to transform us into steadfast disciples — strong in spirit, loving of heart and gentle in nature.
Disappointed when dramatic results take too much time, many people change churches, practices, denominations. Or they just drop out altogether.
Mystics and saints from all ages have told us that real spiritual transformation takes place in God’s slow-cooker, over years and decades. It’s true that conversion and coming to faith can happen quickly, as with Paul on the Road to Damascus, but growing deeply in faith requires time.
You can read the Bible in a few weeks, but it takes a lifetime to learn. We can memorize the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostle’s Creed in a few hours, but a deep life of prayer evolves over years of practice.
Like barbecue, our spiritual transformation cannot be rushed. The Holy Spirit applies steady heat to our souls, tenderizing us and filling us with the savory spice of God’s love and mercy.
Our part is to stay in God’s slow cooker — faithfully worshiping God, diligently praying and remaining open to God’s guidance and direction.
© Copyright 2010, the Rev. Rob Blezard. All rights reserved.
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Photo by Food Thinkers, used under Creative Commons License.