Slow Faith

Our title needs some context. It comes in a question. Does faith work in a fast paced world? In other words is there such a thing as “fast” faith?

Let me pose a real life scenario. In my work I’ve often visited Turin, Italy, where I adopted a coffee shop. Over time I noticed a pattern among their customers. Each morning at a predictable but separate time men would stop by and order a coffee. They leaned on the stand-up counter, exchanged quips with the barista, tossed back a tiny macchiato, and then headed off to work. Always in five minutes or less.

Huw, the pastor I visit in Turin, explained it to me. “I think it’s a social and physical ‘wake-up’ exercise—their way to get launched into the day with a caffeine boost and a quick relational stir. It’s always brief but they love it that way.”

So here’s my question. Do we Christians look for a similar morning stir from God? Do we need a quick spiritual boost like these macchiato moments in Italy? And if we do, what do they offer us? I’m thinking of five-minute daily devotionals, or brief Christian podcasts on the way to work.

First off, let’s not disparage these habits. There’s something to be said for any enrichment that lifts us above the humdrum of ordinary life. If we tune up our spiritual life in the morning by thinking about God it may make a difference later in the day when we make a big decision or have a sensitive conversation. They can offer a brief moment of orientation.

Yet we should also acknowledge what hit-and-run moments don’t offer us. They can’t support a real relationship with Christ. No more than macchiato moments with baristas build deep bonds and shape lives. A marriage, by contrast, does change lives. And so do our deepest set of friendships. These bonds take time along with open hearts. As does living with Christ. The spiritual point is this: brief moments are fine … as long as they aren’t replacements for meaningful daily times with the Lord.

Jesus portrayed real faith as a branch attached to its vine. He called on his disciples to “abide” in his words, ways, and love. Only that sort of bond bears godly fruit. That’s because love takes time to grow; and even more time to touch the many corners of life that make us who we are.

Let’s also consider the Trinity here by recognizing the Imago Dei as a relational reality—based in God’s eternal Triune communion. This underscores the priority of our own communion with God. God’s “image” in other words isn’t a thin quality of ‘god-like-ness’ spread like thin butter on all of humanity. Instead it’s God’s Spirit’s communing presence making us into lovers. Or, as Paul put it in Romans 5:5, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Not with an occasional burst but as a sustaining presence.

Jesus was emphatic about faith’s relational focus in his “high priestly prayer.” He requested for us what he eternally shares with the Father—“I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (Jn 17:26).

Which is to say, a love that doesn’t consist in token gestures, but in ongoing mutual devotion. And that takes real time!

Now back to the question of “fast” faith—is there such a thing? Yes and no! If by fast we’re asking if we can have brief moments of special focus on Christ as one part of our slow, steady, and profound fellowship with him, then yes. But if we’re asking if we can become mature Christians while investing in nothing more than macchiato moments with him then we’re fooling ourselves! His depth of being calls for a depth of devotion that takes all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength.

And we’re sure to enjoy it for a long time to come!

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2 Comments

  1. Huw

    Thanks so much, Ron!

    I still haven’t given up hope of converting you to the wonders of the ‘short’ coffee, but I’m very grateful for your showing me the much deeper wonders of taking time to enjoy a ‘slow faith’!

  2. R N Frost

    Thanks for responding, Huw. Now you know a bit more of the impact you’ve had in my life! As for ‘short’ coffees (I’m thinking of the tiny sips of dense coffee in Italy), I’ll stick with my small ‘buckets’ as you call them! In the meantime I’m pleased we both share the overflowing spring of God’s love for us. Thanks for your fellowship, my friend!

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