The weather is warming, the daylight is increasing, and there is one thought on my mind: cooking outdoors. Until two years ago my interaction with cooking outdoors was the style I think of as grilling, the quick process where patience and anticipation are incinerated by the high heat. When life brought me down South, geographically speaking, a different style of outdoor cooking wildly changed my expectations: slow cooking. The final product, barbecue, is achieved by using low heat over many hours. While grilling promises high temperatures and immediate satisfaction, barbecue invites you to sit down, relax, chat, and grab a beer because it is going to be a while.
The two processes arrive at a finished product that is edible, but many will agree the results are quite different. Impatience with slow cooking can lead to meats being removed too early and a loss of the juicy, smoky flavor. I think the ideas about patience and waiting equally apply to contemplation of God. After recently reading Ronald Rolheiser’s The Shattered Lantern, I couldn’t stop thinking about his discussion about the impact of unbridled restlessness and, in particular, how impatience effects our ability to contemplate God.
As our days become filled with more tasks to complete, we can begin to view rest as just another activity on our list. Our felt presence of God might be assigned to the 7:30 pm slot, right after Jeopardy. However, Rolheiser contends that “[t]rue restfulness … is a form of awareness, a way of being in life. It is living ordinary life with a sense of ease, gratitude, appreciation, peace and prayer.” As we become restful we appreciate and take notice of the simple joys throughout our days instead of obsessing over the next activity. I am a slow walker because I believe in taking my time to catch the finer details of my surroundings and my contemplation of God is no different.
The reception of God in our ordinary lives includes a characteristic of patience, waiting, and longing. When I put a pork shoulder on the smoker I know it could take 12 hours, but I have to let it cook at its own pace. During those hours the smell of food fills the air and provides time to enjoy the company of our friends and family, be thankful for the bounty provided to us, and live in tension as we anticipate the final product. It is in those hours that patience opens us to God’s presence and it’s enough to simply be alive.