Double-Espresso Disciples of a Decaf God

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by Leland D. Nagel

Generally, I am a very patient person. Or at least so I thought. I felt I was ready for all that life brings in a big city—until I moved to D.C.

In preparation for a doctor’s appointment several months ago, I took with me two recent magazines because the magazines at my doctor’s office are from the previous decade. And I am not a daytime talk show viewer so I would not be interested in watching the waiting-room TV. When I arrived at the office, there was only one other person in the waiting area. Within a short time, my doctor arrived and we exchanged greetings. Things were looking good.

Then the procession of arrivals began.

Ninety minutes later, I was still waiting. I walked up to the receptionist and inquired as to the time of my appointment. “I know you’re here” was his reply.

I sat back down, folded my arms, and closed my eyes. Now I was agitated. After all, how much time do I need to set aside for a routine check-up?

Finally, a few minutes shy of two hours, my name was called. As I followed the nurse into the examining-room area, I heard an older woman say, “Have a happy new year, Sir.” Her I ignored.

I was weighed and had my temperature, pulse, and blood pressure checked. Then I again folded my arms, closed my eyes, and leaned back to wait.

I forgot the door was open when I heard the same voice again: “Have a happy new year, Sir.” An inaudible thank you was all I could muster.

Then it dawned on me: I was acting like a spoiled child whose image of self-importance had exceeded any reasonableness.

I sat up and looked around. I had come face to face with grace, and I was found wanting and waiting. Grace was here. It had been with me the whole time.

A smirk slowly came across my face and from deep inside my soul came a little chuckle at how foolish I must have looked. It was everything I could do not to break out into a loud “Ho! Ho! Ho!” I made sure I did not leave that office without wishing the woman a very blessed new year and thanking her for helping me understand the gift of waiting.

Our Double-Espresso Mentality

It’s been several months since I left that office. The seasons of Advent and Christmas are long gone. In fact, Lent is upon us; the waiting associated with Advent has left us.

What do you mean you’re out of caramel brulee latte? We are tired of waiting. I need a double espresso before I talk to anybody. Where is spring? A double espresso con panna. We are results-oriented people, and we want action. I’ll have a café mocha with a double shot of espresso.

We are multi-taskers, hear me now. Be still and confess that I am God (Psalm 46:11). We’re convinced that healing should occur within 24 hours after taking a few pills and several doses of a liquid elixir. Wait for God (Psalm 37:7). What do you mean I should go to bed and sleep? …[B]e like servants who await their master’s return (Luke 12:36). I don’t have time. My safety and glory are with God (Psalm 62:8). There is too much to do. Wait a little (Psalm 37:10) and Trust God at all times (Psalm 62:9).

The slogans of our day only reinforce our double-espresso mentality. Faster than ever! New and improved! Cut your prep time in half! Make your life easier! Give yourself more time! And technology has only exacerbated the frantic pace of being on the go and ready to respond at any minute of every day.

The Laws of Nature Demand Time…

Contrary to anything that may have been released on WikiLeaks, Lent has not been shortened. It is still 40 days. It’s the way God works. It took 40 days for the water of the Flood to subside; Jesus needed 40 days in the desert to deepen the understanding of his call and to be ready for his public life.

Far too many of us live a 24/7 public life on Facebook as we twitter away without any significant down time.

Yet, the laws of nature demand time. A Kansas farmer hopes that corn will be knee high by the Fourth of July. A Montana rancher prays for an early spring to make calving less treacherous against the elements of winter. Birthing—whether the new life of a living creature, the development of a new idea, or the formation of a new habit—takes time.

…and Patience Is Our Cousin

The Parable of the Sower and the Seed has long been the unofficial story of the catechist. It’s a good reminder that seeds take time to germinate.

Consider this: When bamboo is planted in the ideal conditions, it produces nothing above ground for five years. Then, in its fifth year, bamboo grows an average of 18 inches a day for 60 days to an average height of 90 feet!

Catechists are sowers of the seeds of bamboo. It is our belief that everything we do contributes to the faith development of those we encounter. It takes time—and patience is our cousin.

Many parents get caught up in a caffeinated frenzy of carpools and activities that leave everyone exhausted and stressed. In the name of convenience and respect for individuals’ culinary tastes, people have forsaken the family sit-down meal. Dining is a foreign concept that has been replaced by fast food and frozen dinners. Other parents take the decaf approach: They limit screen time. They insist that the family eat at least one meal together each day. They schedule quality family time.

Perhaps this Lent we can learn something from our God for whom a second is a lifetime. Based on the amount of time Jesus spent eating and drinking, I would say the Slow Food Movement was thriving. Carl Petrini, founder of the Slow Food Movement, explains the “slow food” philosophy: “It is useless to force the rhythms of life. The art of living is about learning how to give time to each and every thing.” We need to cast aside our role as victims of time poverty. We need to break free and embrace grace.

Ready for an Experience of Eucharist

This Lent let’s cook together and eat together. If the evening meal can become a genuine dining experience, then we just might be ready for an experience of Eucharist that includes the New Roman Missal.

This new encounter will require a decaf mentality. It will take deeper listening to longer sentences. The reward of savoring the word of God, however, should be better than any caffeine jolt. You’ll reach the source and summit of your faith without leaving your pew.

Lee Nagel is the Executive Director of the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. Thanks to John Ortberg whose quote got me thinking and reflecting: “For good reasons, God does NOT always move at our frantic pace. We are too often double espresso followers of a decaf Sovereign”
(If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat, Zondervan).

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