One of Aesop's most famous fables, the Tortoise and the Hare, tells the story of a great race. We all assume the much faster hare would easily win, but the tortoise is determined to give it his all. The race gets under way with the hare jumping off to a commanding lead. However, his hubris got the best of him and he laid down for a nap before crossing the finish line. Of course his nap goes longer than expected and the tortoise, who was slow but steady, beat him to the finish line. The moral of the story (because Aesop always has a moral message) is that it doesn't matter how fast you go, consistency matters more. "Slow and steady wins the race."
Many of us in our everyday lives are challenged to go faster, get more accomplished, use whatever tools are at our disposal to become more efficient. The emergence of A.I. and ChatGPT promise that all your peers will get ahead of you if you don't use their chatbot program to get more work done faster. Recently I've read articles about pastors and churches experimenting with ChatGPT to put together a whole sermon or worship service according to certain plugged in prompts. While these tools no doubt can usher in some incredible benefits to many in the workforce, with every new technology there are reasons for caution. What are believers supposed to do in this fast-paced and highly competitive world increasingly dependent on tools to make us more efficient?
When the world tells us to go faster, God says, slow down and trust in me. I find it interesting that as much as we love instant results, God's processes are often slow processes. We're studying the book of Acts in our Sunday morning sermons, which shows a lot of amazing changes in a short amount of time. But as far as the Bible stories go, that's the exception, not the rule. For just a couple examples, the Hebrews spent 400 years in Egypt. Then took 40 years in the wilderness. They were in exile in Babylon for 70 years, then waited another 400 years for the arrival of the Messiah. In our lives, we are shaped by slow processes. Parenting, for example is very slow. To shepherd a child takes years, even decades to help them grow, mature and hopefully follow Jesus. You can't just have your child take a quick class and just like that they've grown and learned what they need for life. It takes years of being there for them every single day. It takes experiences, life lessons, conversations, and asking questions to learn and grow. That's a slow and steady process. If that's what it's like to grow as a child, how would we expect our spiritual lives to be different?
Learning the truths about God in the Bible takes a lifetime of consistently opening it up and reading it. Growing in wisdom takes constant reflection on our experiences in life. Grief isn't a quick program to go through but takes time, patience and really hard work. Unlearning sinful behaviors, thoughts and attitudes takes constant effort to change. These are just some examples of slow and steady processes. As a pastor, writing a sermon can be a slow and steady process. I crack open the text early in the week, pray through it, study it, read what other scholars say about it, look for ways to connect it to the lives of our church and community, write it and revise it. A sermon is never done until I preach it. And then, I hope the Spirit takes it and keeps using it in people's lives through the week. It's funny to me that sometimes it's the sermons I struggle through the most that seem to speak to God's people the best. I wouldn't want to give that up to let a computer put together a sermon.
God's processes are often slow processes. In our impatience we may hate how slow it feels or how much work it requires of us. But sometimes it's that slow, steady, and hard work that changes us the most. In our busy seasons, it may be good to remember that God is at work in the slow things like the daily grind of work, running to school, practices, appointments and finding time for meals in between, the long hours we put in serving others. The time and the work matter. Remember that God shows up for us every single day. He is more steady and reliable than anyone or anything else in all the world. He walks with us. He speaks to us. He loves us. Because of his constant presence with us, we can embrace the slowness of change and the steadiness of God's grace. For in that steadiness we--and others--may be changed the most.