“It takes a long time to grow old friends.”
Life takes time.
As I stepped through the low-hanging doorway, the smell of aged bourbon barrels combined with old wood wafted toward me, carrying a scent that is unique to the Kentucky hills. Knowing that I have a bit of a fascination both with the distillation process that leads to some of the finer bourbons produced in the rural parts of Kentucky, and also with the region that produces them, my wife scheduled a series of distillery tours to celebrate my 41st birthday this past weekend.
As I walked through warehouse after warehouse, amazed by the science behind the process that creates a uniquely American version of an originally Scottish drink, I was struck by two prevailing thoughts. First, there is something profound about walking through buildings that date back to 1815 and are still being used for their original purpose. As we walked into the warehouses, many of which still do not have electricity, we were struck by the smell of the aged wood, the beauty of the intricately laid stones, and the sense of history that seemed to travel through the air along with the distinctive scents.
Second, as I looked at the barrels of aging bourbon that proceeded several stories above us, I couldn’t help but think about the length of the maturation process that will eventually lead to a finished product. As I learned that day, without years spent during which temperature variations force the liquid into (and back out of) the white oak that makes up the 55-gallon barrels in which it ages, the final product would never hold the complex flavor profile that has come to be characteristic of this unique concoction. Were a person to attempt to drink the spirit before it has matured, the flavor would be both dramatically less complex, and ultimately disappointing.
Life takes time…you are not yet what you will become. With our cultural focus on the deification of youth, we are in great danger of forgetting the many blessings that come from long seasons of maturation. So often wanting to benefit from the end-result without living through the seasons of stagnation that produce it, we rob ourselves of the complex flavors that God bestows upon a life that is patiently lived.
The next time that you feel stuck, try remembering that maturation comes through long seasons of exposure to the slow workings of the Holy Spirit, constantly forcing us into the monotony of daily life, through which the slow seasoning of the human spirit takes place. If you choose to be patient in trusting God’s providence, the end result of your maturation is likely to be a complexity of flavors that could never have been accomplished in any other fashion.