I rise early. Even before the sun crests the trees beyond our backyard, I am in the kitchen. All four boys are still asleep, and the house is quiet save for the occasional groan of walls settling. My hands are already busy mixing an array of spice and sauces. The slightly acidic, yet seductive smell of vinegar mixed with brown sugar fills the room. The aroma is both savory and sweet with heavy garlic overtones (just the way I like it).
I nibble on cinnamon toast and sip black coffee as I brush the marinade over meat intended for dinner twelve hours later. I breathe deep—enjoying the fragrance of what is and what is to come.
Already, I can taste it.
There’s something magical about food that takes time. All day long tender cuts of meat sit in sauce, doing seemingly nothing but bathing in their surrounding. But the lingering is not in vain. The longer a dish marinates, the more the flavor intensifies. The more it becomes one with the goodness around it. A pork loin becomes more than a mild meat, but a symphony of brown sugar and honey, pepper and tomato puree, paprika and (of course) garlic.
Good things happen in the nothingness. As Leonard Sweet wrote, “Nothing comes forth without something doing nothing”—a truth for both meat and mankind.
I can almost taste it.
Always eager for what comes next, my gaze struggles to remain fixed on what’s in front of me. Just days after turning nine years old, I anticipated what it must be like to be ten—the increased privileges and powers, the hope of puberty and the maturity I assumed came with it. In middle school, I calculated the days until I got my driver’s license and was given liberties to date, but when those things came, my eyes turned toward the glimmer of college, of career, of independence, and of marriage.
What was ahead always seemed better than what was here. Yet even when I got what I wanted, the taste was often reminiscent of a once-frozen patty on a day-old bun. I longed for fuller flavor, and my expectations never matched my frenzied pace. I had not yet learned the value of a marinated life—of living not only as if good things take time, but also as if goodness is already around us.
The more I contemplate what it looks like to be present and to embrace slow living, the more I am struck by how unhurried Jesus was: the way he pulled little children onto his lap or stopped en route to heal the blind and the bleeding; how he lingered over meals or made time for rest. His life was peppered with stories, conversation, food, and fellowship. And while ever mindful of his mission, he did not rush ahead. Jesus embodied a life of presence, of what it means to live in the kingdom of someday and of now, “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).
And I can almost taste it.
My soul hungers for more than sustenance, more than getting by. I crave a way of being in the world that is tender and full of flavor. But it is not until I begin to slow down, to redirect my eyes from the horizon to the dirt at my feet, that the well-marinated life dances on my tongue.
Because it is in the unhurried now that the earthly and the eternal overlap. Here we anticipate not only the goodness ahead, but also the beauty of what is. We find joy in the lingering itself, sipping on life like a full-bodied wine and savoring the smells of what is to come. Here we find rest in a slower way.
We rise early. We soak in the quiet moments. We pay attention to things like mustard seeds and garlic, passing clouds and the smell of rain. We let the slow rhythm of good things taking time fill us with content and usher us into the life that is to come.
Cover image by Caroline Attwood.