Love Like a Smoked Turkey
Why We Can't Microwave Christian Community
By Mike Augsburger
I’m new to the meat-smoking world. The word “world” might be underselling it. It’s more appropriate to use the phrase “meat-smoking galaxy.” Why? Because it’s an expansive realm with endless possibilities. I’ve felt like Dorothy walking into the Land of Oz: my black and white meats now have color!
I haven’t used my smoker a ton. I’ve had some successes and some failures. However, I hit a home run with my Thanksgiving turkey. After brining it for 24 hours, then injecting it with garlic butter and letting it dry in the refrigerator for 12 hours, it was finally ready for the smoker. I was up early on Thanksgiving, praying the smoker would fire up. I nursed it along for nearly six hours. Sliced it lovingly with the skin intact. Pulled the legs off and served them whole. It was absolutely delicious! What was the secret? Giving it plenty of time and attention. Good things develop with time and attention.
This year, in a fusion of the sacred and secular, Valentine’s Day landed on a Sunday. We gathered as a church family to celebrate the love of God and our love for each other. The general marketing of Valentine’s Day, though, promotes a vision of juvenile romantic love with candy hearts that say, “Be mine!”
LOVE IS MORE THAN ROMANTIC
Those of us who are married remember those sappy feelings of romantic love – feelings that ought to recur in a healthy marriage. However, true love…committed love…long-term love…is not fueled on sappy romanticism. The elderly couple who has been married for 50 years and is still going strong didn’t make it on the fumes of romantic love.
You see, the romantic love the world celebrates is generally love without commitment. It’s microwaved love. It’s the love kids find when they’ve met someone at camp and want to spend the rest of their lives together. It’s the love of Jack and Rose depicted in the movie “Titanic.” They have a fling on a sinking ship which causes Rose’s heart to never go on. It’s the love-at-first-sight portrayed in romance novels, leading to steamy love scenes stoked by unmet desire.
All of these visions of romantic love are hollow and leave much to be desired. Unfortunately, this vision of quick, passionate love also taints the way we view friendships and community as well.
LOVE, FRIENDSHIP, AND COMMUNITY
Valentine’s Day 2021 landed in the middle of our sermon series “Together: The Anatomy of Community.” A repeated theme in this series is the fact that true Christian community takes time. It simmers in a Crock Pot. It slowly roasts in a smoker, like my Thanksgiving turkey.
The world’s vision of Valentine’s-Day-microwaved-romantic-love has unwittingly caused shallowness in Christian community. Like the instant love of the romance novel, we want to join a small group and have people laughing, sharing, and crying together within three weeks.
The problem is that laughing occurs as people celebrate shared experiences. Sharing occurs when people trust one another. Crying occurs when we bear each other’s burdens. None of these things happen in a microwave. It takes time to grow, just like the true love in a long-standing marriage.
LOVE EACH OTHER FROM THE SHALLOW END OF THE POOL
First John 4:19-21 says,
“We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And we have this command from him: The one who loves God must also love his brother and sister.”
A zero-entry swimming pool is perfect when your kids are little. It’s like the combination of a swimming pool and a beach. You can ease into the water. You can help your child get used to the water, inch by inch. As they get older, they will be more competent to swim in the deep end of the pool.
As you pursue Christian community, think of it as a zero-entry pool. Don’t walk in expecting to dive into the deep end of the pool. Begin in a half inch of water. Ask questions. Learn what makes people tick. Learn to love over time. Here are some simple ways to grow true love for your brothers and sisters in Christ:
Host each family of your growth group at your house for dinner.
Ask individuals for prayer requests, and follow up by asking for updates.
As men meet with men and women meet with women, take the opportunity to share something you’re struggling with, and ask for prayer.
Ask various group members what God has been teaching them in His Word; be ready to share your heart as well.
Spend some time socializing outside the structured growth group time.
This list could be much longer, but these are just a few simple ideas. When you think of a couple who has a strong marriage that stands the test of time, chances are there is good communication between the husband and wife. They know how to care for each other. They know how to pray for each other. They are comfortable opening up to one another. That’s how love develops over time. Slowly. Like a turkey in a smoker.