I was four years old and riding in the front seat (without my seatbelt) when my mother pulled the car up to the drive-thru window. I quickly leaned across her lap and smiled at the lady in the window and said, “I want a cheeseburger and french fries.” She and my mother both laughed at my order because we weren’t at McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King, or Backyard Burgers: we were at the bank.
Of course, my mother was also a little embarrassed. Four years of age is a little too young to be so familiar with fast food establishments. But mothers everywhere can testify to the enticing value a fast food restaurant brings to a family in need of a quick fix to their hunger problem.
In fact, most of the things I buy or consume offer a quick fix. I use a mobile phone because I want to have the conversation now. I have a laptop because I want to write the article now. I order drip coffee because I want the drink now. I choose nonstop flights because I want to get there now. The quicker I can be satisfied, the better.
I often take the same approach when it comes to satisfying a spiritual need. Maybe I’ll be in a drought of indifference. Maybe I’ll be suddenly repentant of a gross sin. Maybe I’ll have the sudden urge to see my children saved. Regardless of the motive, when I become fully conscious of a spiritual problem, I demand from God a quick fix.
To be sure, God is capable of such a thing. But the consistent testimony of Scripture is that spiritual formation is a marathon, not a dash. We long for the faith of Abraham, but are we willing to wait decades for God to fulfill His promise? We long for the influence of Joseph, but are we willing to experience multiple injustices to gain it? We want to be like Moses, but are we willing to wait 80 years before God uses us in a mighty way? We want to be as fervent in our faith as Peter, but are we willing to sit at Jesus’ feet for years and hear teaching that harnesses our passion?
Genuine spiritual formation is anything but a quick fix. We must be willing to experience and endure multiple and significant things that will seem to delay our spiritual maturity but are actually essential for it. We might be looking for a spiritual drive thru, but God is a master chef. He’s cooking up something much better for us than what we might have in mind.
The question is if we are willing to wait.
Rob Tims has been married to Holly for nearly 15 years. They have four children: Trey (10), Jonathan (9), Abby (1), and Luke (born April 10). He has served in the local church for 20 years as a children’s pastor, student pastor, and senior pastor. He currently serves on a team at Lifeway Christian Resources that develops customized Bible studies for groups and teaches two classes for Liberty University School of Divinity Online. He is the author of the book Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt.