When I first met my husband I was 16 years old. I would have said I fell in love with him immediately. We stood in the darkness of an October night and talked and talked. Two months later we exchanged those words—I love you—also whispered in the dark of night. But it took five more years before we were married, and in that time, that intense emotion that had carried us through the early months became more measured. I still felt giddy when I saw him. I still wanted to spend my life with him. I still counted him as my best friend. But true love, I learned, is slower than that initial emotional and physical connection led me to believe.
Loving our kids was similar. I felt a surge of affection (hormones?) after they were born. I felt fierce protective instincts. I was willing to sacrifice sleep and energy. But building that base of love with them took years. it went slowly. It felt as though the feeling of love was interrupted by the reality of changing diapers and spraying avocado off clothing and willing myself out of bed for one more trip to the potty in the middle of the night. But over time I learned that those moments I saw as interruptions were in fact the seeds of love. Over time, they grew.
In Matthew 13, Jesus tells a parable about the word of God. He says it is like a farmer sowing seed. He says that it falls on all different types of soil, and that when it falls on good soil it grows. I’ve always wanted to have good soil, to be the one whose faith grows firm and strong forever. Truth be told, there have been plenty of seasons where my life resembles the hard soil or the soil that produces quick growth and quick demise. But I’ve only recently noticed that the seed in the good soil, even in the best soil, will take time to grow. Lasting and meaningful growth is always slow.
I’m re-reading a book called The Disappearance of Childhood by Neil Postman right now, and in it he writes: “In reading, one must wait to get the answer, wait to reach the conclusion.” Similarly, in understanding where our food comes from, we must wait to see a cycle that begins with a seed and ends in cultivation. It’s true of playing an instrument, learning a sport, cultivating a friendship. There might be an initial surge of excitement, but sustained growth is long and usually involves some hardship. Love, faith, learning—they are all slow.