On Second Thought: Marshmallows and patience

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 21, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Marie Harrison

For the Clemmons Courier

This past weekend, I had the chance to chaperone the middle school overnight trip with my daughters’ school to a local camp. The afternoon was spent playing group-building games and trying to help these middle schoolers bond and build relationships outside of the school walls.

Free time before dinner was spent on the lake with paddle boats, canoes and even a giant blob. But at night, after chapel, when the sun was fully set, that’s when the fun really began. Two hours to play outside in the relative darkness featured volleyball by the moonlight, soccer in the shadows, and the piece de la resistance — s’mores around a giant campfire.

As a chaperone, I decided my eyes and ears could best be used in s’more supervision. Handing out sticks to roast marshmallows, helping load marshmallows onto graham crackers, making sure no one got too close to the fire, etc. As I watched these middle schoolers all come at various points to roast their marshmallows and make their smores, I saw very quickly that there were two distinct marshmallow roasting styles.

For most, marshmallows were hastily loaded onto sticks, the sticks were placed directly into the fire, the marshmallows immediately burned, were blown out and the s’more was made. Quick in, quick out.

For these children, there was no time to waste. The marshmallow needed to be warmed quickly, and if burning, it got the job done faster, well then, so be it. I even heard one student proclaim, “I don’t really like the taste of burnt marshmallows, but I don’t want to wait, so I guess I’m trying to learn to like the taste.”

For others, roasting the marshmallow was a true art form, an example of diligence, patience and care. For these slow-roasting children, I watched as they took care of their marshmallows. The marshmallows weren’t just haphazardly thrown on a stick. No, for these individuals, the marshmallows were carefully placed. Each one was evenly spaced on the stick. Then, when it came to the actual roasting, the sticks weren’t just thrust into the fire. Slowly, the sticks were held just above the flames. The marshmallows absorbed the warmth of the fire but were never in danger of being victim of a burn. I watched as these students carefully rotated the sticks, making sure not to burn one side of the marshmallow lest it be left in the heat for too long. And when, after careful observation, the marshmallow was the perfect shade of brown, these students carefully pulled the marshmallow off the stick and enjoyed their perfect s’more, slowly.

As I thought about the marshmallow roasting habits of middle schoolers, it struck me that maybe patience is really a matter of trust. With each task we undertake, with every job we have to complete, we always have a choice: get it done fast or get it done well. Quality work takes patience. In our society, things happen in the blink of an eye. I’ve been guilty of closing out browsers or shutting down apps because they took more than a second to load. When we send a text, we want a response immediately. No one has time to wait. For those who exhibit the elusive attribute of patience, there is joy. Joy in knowing a job was done well. Joy in knowing that there was no rush to completion. Joy in the knowledge of delayed gratification, knowing the end will be worth the time and wait. Joy in trusting that good things come to those who wait.

How can any of us impatient, must-get-things-done-now, marshmallow-burning people ever learn to wait and be patient? On our own, I don’t think we can. Patience is a gift. It is learned through countless trials, where doing things quickly only makes them take longer. It is observed in friends who have joy and peace while they wait for God’s perfect timing for their prayers to be answered. It is a gift of God through the Holy Spirit to learn to stop and pause and wait patiently. When we learn to listen to that inner voice that tells us to slow down or pause or wait, we learn to trust God more fully. Trust that He is there in the waiting. Trust that He is working in the trials when we can’t see, and ultimately trust that in all things, He will work for the good of those who love Him. Having patience is really a matter of trust. Whether it’s patience to endure a trial or patience to roast the perfect marshmallow, each day we get the chance to practice trusting, to practice patience, if only we are willing to slow down enough to try.