Waiting For Water To Boil

While my one-cup coffee maker, complete with eco-friendly, individual pods, is my go-to for coffee and tea most days, I still have an affection for the stovetop kettle.

When I started watching the BBC drama, Call the Midwife, a few years ago, the only "kettle" I had was plastic and powered by electricity. It  had an automatic shutoff for when the water reached boiling. It was safe and user-friendly, like the one-cup coffee maker. Time after time on Call The Midwife, I'd hear the characters say, "I'll put on the kettle." They poured the water, turned on the gas stove, sat down, and waited. I'd pour the water, plug the kettle in, flip a switch, and leave the room to accomplish other tasks. The midwives had no auto safety on their kettle, but I did, which gave me the freedom to walk away.

Yet the more I watched Call The Midwife and heard the insistent whistle of boiling water, I found myself longing for that piercing noise. In the waiting for water to boil and tea to steep, the women of Nonnatus House and their surrounding community engaged in conversation. In their closeness to the water and fire of brewing tea, they were alert not only to the coming whistle but also to the ones gathered at the table with them.

So, I ordered a stovetop kettle. When I watched my favorite show weekly, and a few times during the week, I took the time to boil the water and wait nearby. Those few minutes I had spent in a rush to get things done were now a time to be still and wait. In the grand scheme of a 24-hour day, waiting for water to boil only takes a few minutes. Why did I need to hurry through even a few minutes of each day, when they could be a time of rich conversation with friends on the phone, at the table, or with the Lord? 

Boiling water on a stovetop can be dangerous because we're dealing with extreme heat that left unattended can lead to destruction. The key word is "unattended." In our refusals to wait and to be still, to fill every moment of every day with activity, our souls become unattended. Our relationships with God long for tending. The Living Water and Fire of Pentecost whistle to us to be still, to slow down, and to pay attention.

Most days, I now turn on the kettle at least once a day: sometimes for tea and sometimes for French-pressed coffee. Many of those days, I run to the excuses: wouldn't it be quicker to zap a cup of water in the microwave? I'll have coffee made in the one-cup maker before the stove even heats. I try to talk myself out of the slow way. When I follow through with waiting for the water to boil, every single time I discover time well spent.

Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim.
— John 2:7

Jesus' first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee was not a "snap-bam-boom!" moment of transformation. Filling those jars, more aptly described as barrels, with water took a lot of time. They required patience and waiting. All the while, the servants likely wondered, "What is the point?!" In the end, though, the slow way was the way of the miracle they would never forget.

In waiting and being still before God, we may also wonder, "What's the point?" We are a society driven by quick results and efficiency. The kingdom of God, though, is a place of slow miracles that change us not with the end result but in the the process of being "filled" with the Spirit.

Here's a simple exercise to cultivate the miracle of waiting: If you have access to a stovetop kettle, set aside time today to boil a pot of water. Set a timer to see how long it takes, from the pouring to the whistle. Then for the next three days, set aside that amount of time to be still before God. To read a passage of Scripture. To offer prayers in silence. Notice how time does not feel lost but rather gained. Recognize that all time is a gift, and we are recipients of that gift both now and for eternity.

all good things to each of you,

Pastor Darian