This week, PJ actually planned ahead and told me he needed rice crispy treats for his 8th grade science lab, so off to the kitchen we go...
I pulled out the bag of snowmen marshmallows that we didn't use this winter. At the last minute I decided to double the batch to use up the glut of marshmallows left over this year...PJ and I love hot chocolate. I had a huge container of really big, really stale marshmallows. The recipes all said to use fresh ones, but how could fresh be different than stale? It's all just fluffy sugar, right???
You can see what's coming, can't you...
The snowmen dissolved into a blonde goo while the huge, stale marshmallows swam in that goo, unrelenting. Ten minutes went by. I stirred; nothing happened. I started chopping up the marshmallows. Now I had big chunks floating in a honey colored slop. It looked worse than ever. I pulled out the mixer. The chunks went through the beater like it was an amusement park ride--entertained but unaffected. I added milk. I stirred. I beat. I smashed. It just ended up being smaller chunks in a decidedly caramel hued sauce. By now it had been at least half an hour and if we didn't hurry PJ would be late for school. I gave up and started adding the rice. Six cups of rice went in and the chunks began to disappear. Another 6 cups of rice and it was a mass of sticky goo--no chunks to be seen. We poured it out on the foil hoping for the best.
My first taste on the edge confirmed what I suspected. All that extra time meant that a bunch of that sugar had caramelized. A dusting of Himalayan sea salt and, --voila'--I had the most addictive things I had tasted in a long time.
There are so many times that God starts refining us and we know we're in for some heat and mixing. We expect that it will be tough, but life turns out so much harder than we bargained for. If I had used fresh marshmallows, it would have been a 10 minute job. The marshmallows would have melted and I would have mixed and it would be done. Instead, I included some old, tough marshmallows that didn't want to respond to the heat and pressure I exerted. I added more stress--beating them. I added softness with milk. The pieces began to shrink, but they certainly didn't go away.
It's easy to be jealous of some Christians. They face God's refining fire and they melt--they seem so usable so quickly. Then there's folks like us: quirky, tough, rough around the edges, stiff-necked, maybe even tainted. We go into the pot and our old habits swim around in our new nature seemingly unaffected. God sends more trouble our way and the habits only seem more obvious for the beating. He shows us His tender love and we still fret and argue. All the while, we remain in the fire of His presence wondering if the preparation will ever end; wondering if we will ever "arrive." Then suddenly, before we think we are ready, he plunges us into ministry. We squeal, "I can't do this yet!!" But as we work alongside Him, we find that those rough edges don't poke others quite as much. His fragrance seems to flavor our work in ways that are easy to see came from the long, painful hours alongside Him. He adds the Holy Spirit's power and influence not just within us, but for others too.
For our recipe, it may have taken longer and the outcome was uncertain, but the additional time and work added a flavor that was unexpected and delightful. For you, God's preparation may take more time than you think. The ground He starts from may be rocky and unprepared. The extra time is never wasted. Rice crispy treats are yummy when they take 10 minutes to make but they are a whole different kind of amazing when they take 30 minutes. Only the cook knows when it's done. Trust Him.