A psychologist puts a marshmallow in front of a four-year-old and tells them they can eat the marshmallow. BUT! If they wait to eat the marshmallow until after the psychologist leaves and returns, they will get a second marshmallow. The psychologist then leaves the room for 15 minutes. Hilarity ensues.
This is the “Marshmallow Test”. A psychologist performed this experiment in the 70s with more than 500 kids. The children were filmed and their responses to the marshmallow were hilarious. Some ate it right away before the adult even left the room. Some looked away from it the entire time. Others fiddled with it, smelling and touching and licking their marshmallow.
At the end of the study, about 2/3 of the children ate the marshmallow before the adult returned. And this is where it gets interesting. It was a longitudinal study, which means that they followed the children for the next two decades to see if any important conclusions could be drawn from their ability to exercise self-control at the age of four.
It turns out that they found dramatic differences between the one marshmallow and the two marshmallow groups. The kids who were able to wait had better academic performance in school, better-paying jobs, better athletic records… the list goes on and on.
My own Marshmallow.
The Lord just put me through a marshmallow test. On February 6th, our mini-van went kaput. I had some hope of repairing it, but the engine was completely locked up and needed to be replaced. Not going to happen. We suddenly needed a new van.
I took this to prayer. “Lord, we need a new van.” The Lord responded by bringing two scriptures to mind. The first was the whole discourse about prayer where Jesus tells us that our Father already knows what we need and that we should consider the lilies of the field. This scripture brought me comfort and peace.
The second scripture described King Saul as he waited for the prophet Samuel before going into battle with the Philistines. Samuel got delayed and Saul got antsy. Saul took matters into his own hands and offered the sacrifice to God without Samuel. As he finished the sacrifice, Samuel showed up and told him that he ruined everything and that God was going to tear the kingdom from his hands because he couldn’t wait. This did not comfort me so much as instill the fear of the Lord.
The Lord then told me to wait for Him to provide a van for our family. I said ok. The fear of the Lord is a big help when doing something that the world might think is crazy… like waiting on God to provide a van. When you have five kids. I have FIVE kids.
A week passed, then two. We borrowed vehicles from friends to get the family to church and Mary was able to pick up groceries during her turn driving the carpool van. It was a little stressful, but I knew that I knew that God told me to wait.
The Food Bank sent out an email saying that there were some leftover items in a warehouse that is about to be demolished. Staff could take anything that they wanted. I drove over one afternoon and picked through it. There wasn’t much, but I did find a small desk fan that would replace the broken one that my son Joseph liked to use while sleeping.
I grabbed the fan and started walking to my truck. Then I started laughing. “Thanks, Lord! This fan is great. But I’ve been asking for a van. With a ‘V’! VVVVVVV. VVVVAN.” It lifted my spirits because it felt like Jesus had jokes.
Walking it out.
Three weeks passed. I had a conversation with my wife Mary about how hard this was for her. She was really stressed out about trying to find vehicles for her various needs, and when was I going to do something about it? I told her that I understood how hard it was and that I felt God had something good waiting for us at the end of the trial.
I also took it back to prayer. “Lord, this is serious. I need a van. What am I supposed to do?” The Lord responded very clearly, “Wait one more week.” I said, “You’re the boss,” and told Mary about it when I had a chance. She was comforted by what sounded like a real deadline before I could take some action.
In all of this, I was more peaceful than I had any right to be. I wasn’t looking at vans online, or fretting over finances. Waiting was difficult, but I’ve had some very good experiences waiting on the Lord. God brought me a wife out of a convent. He gave us a house next to my in-laws. A friend of mine once told me, “If you wait on the Lord, you get the best He has to offer delivered to your doorstep.”
On Friday, I got a call from a friend at church. She thought she had a line on a van and wanted to know if I would be able to meet the next day to take a look at it. The price would definitely it in our budget. I said sure. Saturday was one week from the day that the Lord said, “Wait one more week.”
When I got to the Church, my friend showed up with her husband. They told me that the Lord told them in prayer that He wanted them to bless us with their 2014 Toyota Siena. We could pay whatever we could afford.
The van is in great shape. It a Toyota, so I know it will run well for years to come. I told them what I could pay cash. They said, “That works.” I picked up the van on Monday, after she purchased a late model Rav4 that had the exact package that she was hoping to get. Someone traded it in some time on Saturday.
The Second Marshmallow.
In the middle of this saga, I told my wife that I could go get a van. I’d already talked to my banker about the loan terms he could arrange for the purchase. But that’s not what the Lord wanted me to do. He wanted to give me a second marshmallow.
As happy as I am with the van(the first marshmallow), the second is even better. On top of the transportation, God has given me new faith, new hope, and new joy. He has shown Himself to be the God who knows my needs before I ask. He has demonstrated that I’m worth more to Him than many sparrows. The way He did this removed all doubt that He’s paying attention to me and my family and has our best interests in mind.
The van, the first marshmallow, is perishable. But the second marshmallow, the gift of faith, is imperishable. It also multiplies every time I share this story with anyone. You get to enjoy the second marshmallow, too.
Take a bite. Taste and see the sweetness of the Lord.
Jesus snatched me out of the darkness and saved me from complete madness. If you want to hear more of that story, check out Demoniac, now available on Amazon.