I grew up watching my mother use her cast iron skillet. She fried chicken, hamburgers, eggs, country fried steak, pork chops, and hash in it. I suppose I began with grilled cheese sandwiches, something I still love but have to limit now. Some days, though, a crisp on the outside, gooey on the inside, hot all over, buttered pair of bread slices (usually multi-grain in a nod to health) is the only thing that will satisfy.
When I received my own cast iron skillet as a wedding present I was confused. My mother’s was deep black, smooth and shiny. This thing was the same shape, the same heft, but gray, dull, and rough. “You have to season it,” she told me, and even though I followed the directions exactly, greasing and heating it over and over and over, it was probably ten years before my skillet finally began to look like hers. Seasoning cannot be done quickly, no matter what they say, and in the early stages can be undone with a moment’s carelessness—like scrubbing it in a sink full of hot soapy water. A good skillet is never scrubbed, never even wet, but simply wiped out, a thin patina of oil left on the surface.
Faith is a little like a cast iron skillet—it has to be seasoned. Let me explain.
In the middle of some study a few weeks ago I made a discovery that made me laugh out loud. “…the churches were strengthened in the faith,” we are told in Acts 16:5. I am not a Greek scholar, but sometimes just looking at a word gives you a clue. The word translated “strengthened” is stereoo. “Stereo?” I thought, automatically anglicizing it, and a moment later got the point. Faith may begin as “mono”—undoubtedly the Philippian jailor who believed and was baptized “in the same hour of the night” had a one dimensional faith. He hadn’t had time to develop beyond the point of “I believe that Jesus is the Son of God,” but I imagine after awhile he had seasoned his faith with layer after layer of growth. It had become a “stereo” faith.
Think about it. The Abraham who left Ur at the word of God, giving up far more than we usually realize in worldly goods and prominence, was not the same Abraham who offered his son over forty years later. That first Abraham was still so timid he would willingly deceive people about the woman traveling with him. Yet God did not give up on him, and he did not give up on God. He grew, adding layer after layer to a faith that eventually made him the father of the faithful.
The Peter who tried to walk on water may have shortly thereafter confessed Christ, but he wasn’t the same Peter who sat in Herod’s prison in Acts 12, and he certainly wasn’t the same Peter who ultimately lost his life for his Lord. He used all the earlier experiences to season a faith that endured to the end.
It isn’t that God is not satisfied with the faith we have at any given moment, but He does expect us to grow, to season that faith with years of endurance and service. Seasoning takes heat, and the heat of affliction may be the thing that seasons us. We never know what may be required, but God expects us to keep adding those layers, to get beyond the “mono” faith to a “stereo” faith, a multi-faceted, deeply layered condition, not just a little saying we repeat when we want to prove we are Christians.
How does your skillet look today? Is it still gray and rough, or have you taken the time to season it with prayer and study, enduring the heat of toil and affliction, and turned it into an indispensable tool, one you use everyday to feed and strengthen your soul?
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me! Job 19:25-27