I had a craving for some popcorn today. So I popped some.
If we’re popcorn eaters, it is probably fair to say that many of us would purchase microwave instead of regular popcorn. Why? The microwave variety is more convenient and takes less time to prepare. Just throw it in the microwave for approximately 2-4 minutes (or hit the popcorn button on your wave machine) and be done with it.
One day, I decided to buy a bag of regular kernel popcorn – the store brand, no less – to prepare for an at-home movie outing. It cost me less than two dollars. I prepared to pop the corn, placing a thin layer of vegetable oil in the bottom of a medium sized pot, pouring the popcorn in the pot to cover the bottom, putting some chunks of Country Crock on top of the kernels, and sprinkling some Old Bay seasoning on the whole thing. Once I prepared the popcorn, I put a top on the pot, turned the flame on sort of high, and waited. It took awhile for the oil to get hot enough to pop the corn, probably the same amount of time it takes for the popcorn to pop in the microwave. In fact, my daughter asked, “When is it going to start to pop?” because she wanted the popcorn right then. Finally, the popcorn started popping. That took a little while too. But when the kernels stop popping and I took off the top of the pot, I had beautifully popped, buttery popcorn with no burning! It took a little more time to prepare it this way, but it sure was worth the wait. I achieved a much better result. That popcorn was delicious!
So who the heck cares about popcorn and how it’s cooked? What does this have to do with anything?
Just like the popcorn, or anything else we microwave, we sometimes seek changes in our lives to happen quickly. Let’s take weight loss, for example. I gained 37 pounds during my pregnancy – nine years ago. Up until last year, I carried 20 pounds of that baby weight. But last year, I decided I wanted to become healthy for me and my family. Of course, I wanted to lose the weight quickly, but I knew if I lost it too rapidly, there’d be a good chance I’d gain the weight back. We know that sometimes significant changes need to be made in order to achieve weight loss (I had 30 pounds to lose), but usually gimmicks and quick fixes cannot be maintained. In fact, the American Heart Association stated, “Because most quick-weight-loss diets require drastic changes in eating patterns, you can’t stay on them for long.” So if we lose the weight quickly, we often gain the weight back, sometimes more than what we gained in the first place. Quick fixes usually don’t work, at least not permanently. But I made changes gradually, changes that I could maintain. I learned what I could and could not eat and when I could eat it. I didn’t starve myself. I ate plenty of food (sometimes still too much). I began to work out regularly. So I am now 20 pounds lighter than I was this time last year. It’s taken a year. And I feel good that as long as maintain my new habits and let go of the bad, I will keep the weight off permanently (I actually have 10 more pounds to go).
Let’s take another example. For years, I didn’t control my emotions. In fact, I carried suppressed anger that I allowed rear its ugly head in my marriage often. It goes without saying that if I wanted to my marriage to succeed, I had to make some changes. And I wanted the changes to happen quickly. So over the years, I prayed, praised God, worshipped God, read my Bible regularly. And when I engaged in these activities, I thought I was emotionally healed. I thought that God was going to instantly heal me of my emotional baggage. After all, when Jesus healed people, it was usually an immediate healing. And surely, after most church services, I left feeling good, believing in my heart God had touched me in some way. And He did.
Deep down, my soul was still sick.
Yet, I continued to pray, I continued to read and reflect, I continued to seek God for my change. And as I persevered, things began to change. I began to look at my husband through different lenses. I began to see the glass as half full. God revealed to me how to make the changes. It wasn’t pretty, but after some years, I’ve learned how not to becoming offended so easily, how to communicate better, and how to see my husband as the gift God graciously gave me. We’ve now been married 12 years. And our relationship is better than it has ever been, and getting better!
I have come to a different understanding of emotional and spiritual healing these days. God is the source of healing for me. But I don’t think God does takes a “microwave popcorn” approach to it (at least He hasn’t for me). As the Greek slave and fable author Aesop said in The Tortoise and the Hare, ”Slow and steady wins the race.” And for me and my emotional health comes in the form of being more attuned to my immediate circumstances and how I react to them. But it’s taken time for me to figure out how to become more sensitive to how I react to things.
My emotional healing hasn’t been a quick fix, as much as I’ve wanted it to be. It has been a slow process. Yet it sure feels good to have a different response and reap the benefits of that response today.
So for those of you who are seeking a change (or changes), it may not be helpful to seek the quick fix. Because while temporary relief may come and go, transformation achieved through effort and struggle is lasting.
“Time is a dressmaker, specializing in alterations.” ~Faith Baldwin