When I think about patience, I think of the process of making bread. From start to finish, it’s a method that requires a lot of waiting around and restraint.
It starts with the awakening of the yeast. The warm water and sugar solution that gently coaxes the yeast to life. The bubbles that form on the surface signify a readiness to begin the work of being made into something beautiful.
Flour and salt are added and gently incorporated into the smooth mixture. The dough is clingy and remains in clumps, unwilling to let go and be its own entity.
But left in the warmth of the hot water cupboard the magic begins to happen. The yeast works its way throughout the sticky dough and pockets of air transform the mixture slowly. The dough rises and rises until it grazes its’ tea-towel ceiling.
You take it out and gently begin to knead it with your palms, fingers, knuckles. The dough is fragile so you must treat it lightly. You pull and stretch and caress the dough.
This work is messy. Your hands are caked in flour. And flour hits the floor, the bench, the ceiling and clumps under your fingernails.
But you lovingly pour yourself into the process. You see the progress and you feel the gratification.
You know that your patience will be rewarded.
This week I decided to make my own bread. Because there is something wholesome and sweet about homemade bread which is lacking in the commercial kind. I think it’s the connection to the past, our heritage, a time where life was slower and simpler.
The smell alone is familiar and comforting, like being swept up into your mother’s warm embrace.
But bread, like humans is very needy.
It requires much time and effort. Rest and working before it becomes something great.
I hate waiting.
I want answers now. I want recognition now. I want the reward now.
And our culture feeds that insatiable appetite for immediacy. We have created machines that do our hard work for us. We’ve manufactured food that can be consumed instantly. We’ve got devices that distract us so that even in the waiting, we never have to be silent.
Our world is undeniably impatient and if the cap fits we wear it too.
But I don’t think we were designed for instant gratification. I think we are part of this bigger narrative of patience, eager anticipation and hopeful expectancy. We were called to wait.
The seeds are waiting for the gentle rain of springtime. The bears are waiting for the thawing of the winter snow. The birds are waiting for daybreak and the world is waiting for a Saviour.
Waiting is a natural rhythm on this earth, however much we fight it, it will always be so.
God has been teaching me a great deal about waiting.
I’m driven, passionate and focused. I see a goal and I work until I accomplish it. In fact, I’m very proud of my ability to power through a to-do list. I hate to sit idle when I could be making something, anything better.
And not only that, I need to accomplish it all now.
I expect to be best friends as soon as we meet. I want to master a recipe on my first attempt. I think I should have my life figured out at twenty one.
I fall into this trap of exhaustive productivity constantly.
Because waiting is painful. It’s boring, empty, dark and unknown. Sitting still just causes me to fidget.
But there is something beautiful about taking things slowly. This is a truth that feels especially relevant when it comes to cooking. There is a depth of flavour, an earnestness of texture, that can only be achieved when you take the time to labour over the food you are preparing.
Sure, you can open a jar of pre-made pasta sauce and it will complement your spaghetti and meatballs just fine but real foodies understand the pure, unadulterated joy of making your own sauce from scratch.
The flavours are built layer upon layer and the result is something quite spectacular.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that marinated steak is more tender, day old cheesecake tastes better and homemade bread is simply divine.
When we have the patience to devote ourselves to the process, the reward is great.
This is the heart of living intentionally. It’s being aware of our surroundings, it’s appreciating the goodness and resting in the stillness.
We have to slowly build trust with people as we have conversation after conversation. We have to practice our skills before we will master a complicated recipe. We have to learn from life as we journey through it, rather than knowing it all before we set out.
In the waiting we are refined, transformed and restored. Much like the dough in the hot water cupboard, as we rest, we rise.
As I’ve been thinking about waiting I was reminded of 1 Corinthians and that familiar verse which speaks of love. Funnily enough, love’s first characteristic is patience.
Love is being present. Love is showing up again and again. Love is waiting.
Our world is scared of waiting because in this quiet place, all of our deepest fears are revealed. Our need for control, our desire for approval, our fear of rejection.
The lingering dread that bubbles away beneath the surface is exposed and we are forced to deal with it.
However, I take comfort in knowing that we don’t wait in darkness.
We have this hope that everything we have been promised will come to fruition.
If I trust, believe and keep tracking onwards, life will unfold. The sun will rise, the snow will melt, the leaves will turn green to gold.
Our purpose is not to strive ahead and reach some pre-determined destination. If we are constantly in a hurry, we will miss out on the very best bits of life.
The beauty of life lies in that stretch between what was and what is to come. The challenge we face is making peace with the waiting. To find hope, courage and our true selves here.
“Everything is interim. Everything is a path or a preparation for the next thing, and we never know what the next thing is. Life is like that, of course, twisty and surprising. But life with God is like that exponentially.” – Shauna Niequist
Songs: Not in a hurry by Will Reagan