This last Saturday, my son went to the neighbors and picked a couple pails of cherries. Yum! The thought of a nice fresh cherry pie was in my mind (and I am sure was in his mind). We stopped by to see how things were going, picked some cherries, visited with the neighbors and headed home. I didn't have to preached the weekend services as our field worker from the Seminary was going to give the sermon. So I didn't have the weight of preparing to preach on my shoulders. It gave me some extra time. Being the nice husband that I am (with ulterior motives of a cherry pie), I volunteered to pit the cherries.
Pitting cherries is a challenge, especially when you do it by hand. I am sure that someone has designed a cherry pitter that makes like easier (and it probably only costs $19.95, but if you act now, they will include the special strawberry stemmer at no additional cost. But you must act now!). Even if there is, we don't own one. So there I stood at the sink in the kitchen, listening to the radio, pitting cherries, looking out the window, and wondering, "Is there any way to get this done any faster?" The sink was full of cherries and I felt like I had been standing there forever. Time ticked away, the cherries still lay in the sink laughing at my audacity to think I could quickly pit two pails of cherries. "Come on," I thought, "I should be closer to be done than that!" One cherry at a time, I would remove the pit, toss it into the bucket and put the pitted cherry in another. 5 minutes become 15, which became a half hour, which became 45 minutes.
Somewhere around the 1/2 hour mark (or maybe later), I felt the familiar tug of the Holy Spirit. He was saying to me, "Are you listening?" To which I responded, "Huh?" I could sense Him shaking His head and saying, "There is a lesson here." Being the sharp minded person I am, I replied, "What lesson? The lesson of 'don't pick so many cherries next time'?" I could feel the breath of the Spirit on my neck as He sighed. "No, much deeper." Then He opened my mind.
"WOW!" was all I could say. There was a lesson in pitting cherries. What was it? Nothing comes in an instant. We live in a society that wants everything to come instantly and easily. "Lose 10 pounds in 1 week, without ever having to change your eating habits!" "Learn a foreign language with only 10 minutes a day." And the list of ads could go on. Instant meals, instant relationships (just check e-harmony and find the love of you life, and if you don't find him/her in 6 months, they will give you another 6 months free! What a deal!), instant language, instant income/wealth, instant health, and instant spirituality.
Satan has trapped us into thinking that we can have instant spirituality, instant growth in faith, instant everything we want, and when we don't get it in the instant that we want it, that means that God is not good, loving and right. That means we need to turn to something or someone else other than the true God. Take a look at the god of the Mormons or the god of Islam or the god of your neighbor who just happens to have no god at all. His life is wonderful. Your life is a shambles. He drives the new car, you drive the 5 year old van that needs new brakes. He grills steaks, you eat mac and cheese with the kids. His life is perfect without God, your life is a struggle with God. Satan taunts. He puts thoughts before us that we should instantly have a deep spiritual relationship with God and when we don't, then He is wrong and we need to ditch Him.
But wait a minute. What is the problem in this picture? We want a deep relationship with God and not have to commit ourselves to Him, to follow Him, to dig deeply into His Word, to spend the time needed to grow in faith in Him. We want it instantly and it doesn't work that way. Yes, salvation comes in an instant. At the moment that the Holy Spirit works that saving faith in our hearts, we are saved. Instantly. Hurrah! Go Holy Spirit!
Then comes the long, more difficult part of the life of faith. It is called living each day. To grow in that deep relationship with Christ Jesus takes commitment on our part. It takes work. Study of the Word, daily spending time with that precious gift that we have been given. (You can't really learn a language fully without spending time with it. Why do we think we can learn our faith fully without spending time in the Word?) Being fed from Word and Sacrament strengthens our faith, guides us in our walk of faith and deepens our relationship with our Lord. Try to skip study of the Word, and your faith will remain weak. You will wonder why you don't have that deep relationship with Him. And the reason is because you have tried to have an instant "deep" relationship. You can pop an instant meal into the microwave and when it is done, you have an instant meal. It will sustain you. But it won't be like the meal that your mom cooked when you were growing up. Do you wonder why? It is because the meal your mom cooked took time, effort and commitment on her part. A deep relationship with Christ is the same way.
Pitting those cherries, sighing in frustration as it took so long, I realized, all too often that is how I am in my life. I want to have things instantly. I learned that is how I am in my relationship with Christ, I want to have a deep relationship instantly. I learned all over again, if you want to have a yummy cherry pie, someone has to take the time to pit the cherries and make the pie. So it is in my life of faith.