It was Joseph’s first birthday just a week or so ago. He’s running around a lot now, he rarely crawls unless he’s at an especially difficult slope. His blabbering is being a lot more focused, almost coherent. He even knows how to work a cell phone. Last night we were all hanging out on a bed outside and Paul gave his cell phone to Joe to play with it. Joe loves those things. He puts them up to his ear as is he’s on a call and starts talking to it. He’s a smart kid, for his age.
But do you know what he did when he was first born? Nothing. At least, as close to nothing that a living person can do. He cried, ate, slept and pooped. That was it. He didn’t have any complex desires. He had no concept of communication or relationship. We loved him but he couldn’t have cared less about us, really. Let’s face it, when a person is first born their brain really is not working yet. In our prenatal course the teacher told us that more than half of physical brain development occurs outside of the womb! So it would have been unreasonable for me to expect love, communication, empathy or anything interaction from Joseph during his first few weeks and even months of life. He just sat there. And sucked and pooped.
I like how Jesus compares conversion to a birth. It makes it seem really real.
A lot of things are similar between a natural newborn and a spiritual one. When a spiritual baby is newly born there is a period of disorientation. It’s very hard to know what to do or how to fulfill the new desires that you cannot even express properly. There are only a few things that a new spiritual baby needs to do in order to grow. Cry and suck. Cry and suck. A new believer may not know much (even if he had degrees upon degrees in the most spiritual theological churches and school) but all he really needs to know at the beginning is cry and suck. Cry when the pain of sin hits you. Cry when you have pain in your life. Cry when you want refreshment from God. Cry when you don’t know what’s going on, but you just feel like you need to cry. Earthly parents would get frustrated by all this crying, but God knows that it proves that you value Him. And suck. Suck out the pure milk of the word. You know what’s neat? Whenever Joe cries milk satisfies him. Even when he’s not crying for hunger. When he falls and hurts himself, when he can’t have a toy he wants, when he wants to play with Dad who is away. Milk always satisfies him, even when he doesn’t know it.
I think that if we are young in the faith we should not be discouraged when we see others progressing much further and faster than us. I am blessed in knowing many godly people, but sometimes watching their lives makes me sad. They possess a discipline and desire that is foreign to me. But stop and think for a second. They’ve been on this road for ten, twenty, or thirty years now! Of course they’re further along. I can’t expect Joseph to climb a tree today. Joe does what a one-year-old should do, and for that I am very happy. I do not expect him to do the work of a five-year-old. Yet.
There is a danger, though. When Joseph is fifteen will I be especially pleased with him if he can walk across the room without falling or get himself in or out of the swimming tub by himself? Certainly not. Those things that are great feats today will be mundane things by then. I am pleased with what he does today, but I am far from satisfied.
In many ways God is easy to please, but very hard to satisfy.
If Joseph is still struggling to communicate when he is fifteen I will be neither pleased nor satisfied with his progress. God is very pleased when a new soul is born into His family. He is pleased when that soul begins to set aside five minutes every other day to a prayer or a reading. He is pleased when that individual tries to get something out of fellowship at a church once in a while. But He’s not satisfied. God wants us to grow up into spiritual men and women who will lay down out lives and energy for Him. Who love to run to Him and raise His families and fight for His name. He wants us to grow pure, holy desires that breathe after Him, His Son and His Word. He’s pleased when we start, but He’s not satisfied until we’re finished.
To me this is an encouragement and a rebuke. Here we can see a bit of a danger in expecting too little from ourselves, and too much. It’s good to stop and take stock of where we are, spiritually. Are we puking newborns? Stumbling toddlers? Confused Teens? Where are we?