This is a conversation I had with E, my nearly four-year-old, at breakfast yesterday, about why the porridge was not ready yet, even though he was yelling at it and telling it that he wanted it to be ready.
Me: It’s like in Basil and the Branch [a kids’ book that he loves about a branch on a grapevine]. Even though Basil squeezes and puffs, he can’t make his grapes grow yet.
E: Why can’t he make his grapes grow yet?
Me: Because it isn’t the season for grapes to grow.
E: Because grapes grow in summer!
Me: That’s right, grapes don’t grow until summer.
E: And we eat them in autumn! And winter, and spring!
Me: Yes, we can eat them in autumn, can’t we? Or it’s like our quince tree. That takes a long, long time to grow quinces, doesn’t it? Do you think the quince tree could make quinces now by squeezing and yelling?
Me: And then the quinces start to grow in summer but they take a long, loooong time to ripen. They’re not ripe until autumn, are they?
E: [growing interested] What things can we make with quinces next autumn?
Me: What would you like to make with quinces next autumn?
E: Could we make quince paste?!
Me: Yes, we could make quince paste again. That takes a long time to make too, doesn’t it? Just like sourdough.
E: Or we could make quince jam!
Me: Yes, we could make quince jam too. That also takes a long time.
E: Is the porridge ready yet?
Me: Almost. I just need the berries to thaw.
E: I want water.
And slowly, slowly, the oats absorb the water, and the berries start to thaw. Slowly, slowly, buds lose their outer winter coating and tiny flowers peak through. Slowly my son is learning to be patient, even though the next morning he is sad once again that the porridge takes too long to be ready. Slowly I learn to be patient too, even though tonight my children climb in and out of my legs while I make pasta, and I knead sourdough while E is sad because his mother has not yet come inside from work. Slowly God teaches me that I too am as easily saddened, as little inclined to trust Him, as much in need of grace. Slowly, slowly, God works in winter-hardened hearts.