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grillsmokeMy eyes burned as the smoke blinded me. I knew I had to stay there and finish the job, but smelling like a chimney all day wasn’t what I had in mind. I closed the cover and stepped back. There were only a few more hours left, and I knew it would be perfect—if I had the patience to wait that long.

As I stood there staring at the beef brisket barbecuing in my charcoal grill, I thought about how brisket, being a cut of beef from the lower chest, has a significant amount of connective tissue. The meat must be cooked slowly, over a long period of time, to tenderize the connective tissue. The result, if done properly, is a tender, tasty, beautiful piece of meat. If not, it can be a disaster—tough, overcooked, chewy, and dry. 

The key to breaking this down is cooking at a lower temperature for a longer period of time. This could be twelve hours or more. This takes an investment of time and effort. You have to plan ahead and be patient with the process. It can be a labor of love if you know the results. If you do, you will be rewarded with a meal that doesn’t compare with much else.

While I waited, the Lord brought to my attention the similarities between the process of tenderizing tougher cuts of meat and the process of helping to tenderize other people’s hardened hearts. 

The process is a consistent level of love over a longer period of time. It isn’t a flashy, in-your-face, get-your-act-together mentality. It needs time and patience to have its perfect work. 

“But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:4 NKJV)
Patience is an act of love. You are willingly enduring a level of suffering without complaint. I am not saying it is easy to do, but the Lord tells us the result will be worth the effort.

I was reminded of Julie’s letter last month, and the hope she placed in being able to affect a certain classmate’s negative attitude over the course of the semester. The easy thing to do would be to just avoid contact with this person and try to stay happy through dodging her.

Well, she has an update, and I will let her finish the story:
It was an interesting progression of events over the course of thirty-one days, that’s for sure. My chemistry classmate, also in her 40s, decided to take on a condensed summer course that was four and a half weeks long. Let’s call her Nancy. The similarities between Nancy and I were few and seemed to end at us winding up in the same place at similar ages.

Nancy had a completely different take on life, and her outlook was negative at every turn. She interrupted, made rude comments to our professor and fellow classmates, and she was toxic to be around. Some of our classmates had enough of it and told her to 'knock it off' on a couple of occasions, as did our professor. She’d seem to get quiet for a while, but then a half hour later, she’d be back to her same old self again.

As I was writing my last letter and telling the story, the Lord reminded me that I hadn’t even stopped to pray for Nancy. There was obviously something deeper going on in her life than just a stretch of bad days. At the time of that writing and the prompting from the Lord, I began praying for her, and I have prayed for her since.

My professor decided to assign us seats on lab days so we could get to know other people. Who got to be lab partners with negative Nancy? Me. . . of course. When I saw my name next to hers on that six-hour lab day, I was frustrated and crabby inside. This class was SO hard, and she was making learning this material even more difficult than it should be.

I decided that I have a split second to decide whether I would use this as an opportunity to be a light, or allow someone else’s actions and attitude dictate whether I have a pleasant day or a miserable one. I lowered my head on my table right then and silently asked God to show me what to do and what to say because, instantly, I lost sight of the big picture.

I started to consider it a possibility that she was completely unaware of her negativity. That consideration didn’t make her behavior more acceptable, but it did give me the ability to endure being around her at times, and to continue to walk in love toward her.

What do I mean by walk in love? Well, I held my tongue on multiple occasions when I wanted to tell her off. And I continued to be kind to her, even when she was undeserving of kindness. Both very difficult. I tried very hard to see the big picture, but it was not easy to do. I didn’t want to be nice to someone who was unkind, selfish, and rude. But I kept at it, knowing that God’s love never fails. Whether or not I would see a change in Nancy before our course ended was the big unknown, but I sure hoped for that—for all of our sakes.

As time allowed in class, I asked her questions about her family, her future nursing goals, and things like that. She would still have negative things to say about pretty much everything because that’s what happens when you feel like the world is conspiring against you. And then, very s-l-o-w-l-y, I noticed she expressed an interest in knowing more about me. She started asking me questions about my life and was attentive to my replies. This seemed like a mini breakthrough!

As Jon mentioned above, it is a long, slow process of breaking down connective tissue on tough cuts of meat while grilling. That is such a good analogy because it’s the same long, slow process of breaking through the hardness of someone’s heart. I had to establish a genuine relationship with her for her to trust me, and that takes time. Nothing but time and effort. And you cannot rush it.

By the last week of class, Nancy was much easier to be around. Not a 100% turnaround by any means, but a huge improvement. She was softer. Not as abrasive, rude, or negative. She even asked me what classes I am taking in the fall semester and told me she hopes we have some classes together in the future. She really shocked me when she thanked me for being so nice to her and told me she has enjoyed getting to know me. What?! In thirty-one days, I had not heard her say anything remotely close to encouraging or positive!

I was so encouraged in seeing firsthand what God can do in one short month. I wonder what the outcome would have been if I had not been patient and had given in to the temptation to give her a piece of my mind.

Not everyone is going to like us or think our motives are right, and that’s okay! But because of this experience, I will always remember what it takes to minister to those who seem unreachable. It never happens quickly. I never spoke a verse of scripture or mentioned the name of the Lord to her. But I believe I made a difference because it was God directing me. And we all know that He handles things in very unconventional ways. He never gives up on anyone, and now. . . neither will I.

“Love bears all things [regardless of what comes],
believes all things [looking for the best in each one],
hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times],
endures all things [without weakening].” (1 Corinthians 13:7 AMP)


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Jon & Julie Larson
cfaith staff
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Author Biography

Jon and Julie Larson
Web site: cfaith
Jon has been called to work in the Information Technology department for Living Word Christian Center and cfaith in Minneapolis, MN since 2001, and he oversees them both. Julie is the managing editor at cfaith in Minneapolis, MN, where she considers it a huge blessing and privilege to work in ministry with her husband, Jon.

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