As I sit here writing this evening, I can’t help but think about the 24 pound beef brisket that is in our smoker on the lower patio of our home. It’s really quite an adventure but I have to be patient – it’s a long way from being finished.
I have loved to grill and barbecue since Janet and I were first married – even before that, I think, as I recall Dad teaching me the ins and outs of grilling at a very early age. There’s something about the fire that has always fascinated me – kind of like fireplaces… I just love a great fire on a cold winter day. Back in the early days, we had charcoal grills and I remember Dad buying Kingsford charcoal for our grill. We didn’t have anything fancy but Dad really knew how to cook outdoors. Mom was the gourmet in the kitchen – a real artisan when it came to cooking indoors.
Janet and I eventually added gas grills to our backyard routine and, maybe 8 years ago or so, I started to explore the idea of making beef jerky. I made it work with one of our Weber gas grills, but it was a ton of work and as I made more and more beef jerky, it became a chore rather than a joy. A little more than a year go, Janet finally convinced me to get a real dedicated smoker – and I did.
I have since come to realize the wisdom of her encouragement. We have enjoyed many kinds of meals that have come off our smoker – jerky, pulled pork, meat loaf, pork chops, baby back ribs – as well as simple things such as hamburgers. And I have even started to experiment with beef brisket, the holy grail of backyard smoking. I have really studied the art of smoking – from wood selection and flavoring to spice mixes, temperatures, cooling down periods and even something elusive called “the stall.”
That’s the time in a long cook, such as doing a brisket, when the temperature of the meat fails to go up – for hours on end… There are all kinds of reasons why this happens, but suffice it so say that it is important to realize that whenever you cook certain cuts of meat, you better factor in extra hours to account for time when it seems like nothing is happening.
Many people give up and take their meat off the smoker before the desired temperature is attained. The problem is that this is their loss. Being anxious leads to bad outcomes – you just have to do the work, be patient through the stall and wait for the smoker to do its job. Sometimes, it tries the best of us with our patience.
Our brisket has been on since 2:30 this afternoon and is just starting to enter the stall. It could be until morning before I make any more progress with the cook. And every piece of meat is different – some stalls are short and others can take 9 – even 10 hours! Suffice it to say that I am planning on a 24 hour cook, at least! Nothing worth doing right is done in an instant – it takes study, practice and patience.
I guess that by now you can figure out that I also think that it’s possible for each of us to enter a “stall” in our relationship with God. When most of us came to Christ by accepting the free gift of eternal salvation, we were on fire for the Lord. We made progress in our reading of the Bible, maybe joined a study or two, attended church regularly and grew quickly in our relationship with Christ.
But research shows that many people cool off after their initial burst of Christian energy. They tend to lose momentum and, sometimes, even mature Christians have seasons where they don’t seem to be growing in their relationship with God. Sure, we may become more knowledgable about God, but we don’t always make progress in our relationship WITH God. And the relationship with God is the most important part of the whole thing – Jesus wants a personal relationship with each of us.
So how do we get through the “stall” in our growth as Christians? The same way we do on the smoker… we persevere. We continue to apply our discipline, to learn, to grow, to be patient and stay the course. By the way, we can’t get anxious – we have all of eternity with Jesus. There’s no rush – it’s just important to know that there will be times in all of our lives when we won’t grow as quickly as we would like – and that’s okay. Don’t give up – stay the course – and see it through to the end. That’s the formula…
Our verse for tonight is from the apostle John is his second epistle. John reminds his readers, including us, in 2 John 1:9, “Anyone who wanders away from this teaching has no relationship with God. But anyone who remains in the teaching of Christ has a relationship with both the Father and the Son.” My encouragement this evening is that God desires each of to stay the course and grow with Him. My prayer is that we will all stay the course, be patient through the “stalls” in our faith life and know that in the end, we will spend eternity in the presence of God. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…