The problem with many Christians’ spiritual health is that they’re still nursing a baby bottle instead of eating solid food (Hebrews 5:12).
My first job (not including babysitting) was working the cash register at a drycleaner. I remember a customer got upset because his jeans were only extra-starched, but not stiff enough to double as drum skins. It was laughable, but that wasn’t the hardest job, by any means. Several years later, I worked as a newspaper reporter, and I once got chewed out by my editor. That job got on my nerves, but even it wasn’t the hardest job.
Then, there was the time I had to eat scorpion and dog meat (not in the same meal) at my teaching job in China, or else risk offending the host. That was a little freaky, but certainly not the hardest job I’ve had. There was also the job where a bunch of people got fired, and I eventually left for a much lower paying position just to save my skin (and my sanity). That job took a toll on my emotional health, but even it wasn’t the hardest.
For me, the hardest job is parenting. I used to think it was tough when the kids were little and needed constant care and attention, but sometimes it feels even more difficult now that they’re older and can voice their feelings and opinions. I can think of few things more humbling than having a person whose poop you’ve wiped and whose puke you’ve caught with your own shirt tell you that they don’t want you as a parent, or that you’re “so mean” to them, or that you “never” do anything nice for them.
Yes, parenting is certainly one of the most delayed-reward jobs on the planet. There are verses like Ephesians 6:1 and Colossians 3:20 that we can encourage our children to memorize and put into practice, but Proverbs 22:6 is the epitome of all parenting verses, as it gives us hope that one of these days, we’ll eventually see the fruit from our labors.
Some of you are still in the diapering days; others are already enjoying grandparenthood. Some are not parents, but you still have influence over the children in your life. May we be examples for them to emulate our love and respect for God, so that they will take it to heart and … excuse me, I have to go … someone was apparently playing catch with a rock in the backyard and caught it with his face. Sigh.
I came across an old home video this week while looking through archived files on my computer. It was of my youngest kiddo eating in a highchair. He had just learned to pick up finger foods, and he was eating peas and Cheerios – complete with green mush on his chin. The kids had a big laugh watching the video, especially with my sing-song voice in the background praising him for being such a big boy and feeding himself.
With kids, we get excited about every little milestone, don’t we? We ooh and ahh about moving from milk to baby food, then finger foods, and finally table food using a fork and spoon. In some ways, this progression mirrors our spiritual development. We start out our new spiritual lives needing to be nourished with the simple truth of the gospel. Peter described it this way: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:2-3, NIV). Yet, our development doesn’t (or shouldn’t!) stop there.
In Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, he scolded them by saying, “Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3, NIV).
Likewise, the writer of Hebrews challenged readers for being unwilling to grow in faith: “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:11-14, NIV).
What, then, does it mean to be ready for solid food, spiritually speaking? Partly, it means that there should be evidence of our growth. We should seek out spiritual instruction that challenges us to stretch and grow even more. It also means that we should begin teaching, mentoring, and leading others to help them grow in faith.