Sofia nestled on my shoulder as I carefully made my way down the stairs. It has been a few years since I carried such a precious bundle in my arms and I wanted no missteps. As I reached the bottom of the stairs, I spotted a squirrel in the yard sitting on his hind legs. For just a split second I was tempted to say, ‘Sofia, look at the squirrel!’ but I immediately caught myself and laughed out loud. At one week of age her field of vision is 8 to 12 inches, perfect for seeing the face of the person carrying her in the crook of their arm, but that is about it. It will be some time before she gets excited about a squirrel in the yard.
However, I am confident this will eventually happen. Gradually she will see further and her little universe will expand. As she grows, her understanding of the world will grow. She will eat often and will soon outgrow those cute ‘newborn’ clothes; in no time at all she will be chubby enough to fit into the next size up. Right now she is thriving on her mother’s milk, but between four and six months she will be ready for her first taste of solid foods. An oh-so-delicious baby cereal will be added to her diet. I admit that I am not a big fan of pasty infant cereal, but how sad it would be if Sofia continued to drink only breast milk. Eventually, her growth would be stunted and her development arrested.
It is rare that a child does not make a fairly smooth transition to solid foods. Oh, there are the usual messes associated with learning to eat, and occasional rejections of certain foods, but all in all, infants do amazingly well at adding new foods to their diet. It is the rare child who has a medical condition, or perhaps tactile sensitivities, that makes it difficult for them to progress to solids. As a former Early Intervention nurse, I know there are many resources available to help these few children, and their families, move through these tricky issues.
While it is rare for infants to not move ahead with their feeding skills, it is an unfortunate truth that our church pews are filled with people who are content to remain spiritual babies, drinking milk their entire lives. The Bible makes the point that milk is for those who are new to the faith; the meat of the Word is for those who are healthy and growing. The apostle Paul was critical of early Christians who continued in basic teachings of the faith, but never progressed to more advanced doctrinal teachings. My guess is that he would have approved of the prophet Jeremiah.
Jeremiah said, ‘Your words were found and I ate them, and your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I have been called by your name, O LORD God of hosts.’ In fact, Jeremiah also said that he valued God’s words more than his daily bread.
Ezekiel was another prophet who ate God’s words. God said to him, “Open your mouth and eat what I give you. Then I saw a hand stretched out to me. It was a scroll, which he unrolled before me….. And he said to me, “Son of Man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll…. so I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.”
And John, when he was in exile on the island of Patmos, had the same diet: “I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it.”
When we chew and swallow food, it passes down the esophagus and into the stomach. Ultimately, the food is broken down into small parts so that the body can use it for fuel. It is not distinct from the body; it actually becomes the body. Without food, the body does not have a source of energy and will eventually die.
In the same way, when we chew and savor and swallow the words of God, it becomes a part of us. It is assimilated into who we are and powers our spiritual life. If we only drink milk, i.e., revisit the basics of the faith over and over, our energy supply will not be sufficient to meet the demands of life. In contrast, eating the meat of God’s word, that is, the deep things of God, the mysteries, the challenging doctrinal teachings, equips us to deal not only with whatever comes into our own life, but also prepares us to help others when they face challenges.
We have the habit of evaluating our health. We check our weight, blood pressure and pulse, cholesterol and iron levels. We know there is value in making sure our bodies are doing okay.
Do we take the same sort of inventory of our spiritual health? Do we evaluate whether or not we are growing in the faith? May I suggest that you start with this basic question: Am I still living on spiritual milk, the fundamentals of the faith, or have I progressed to solid food? Am I serious in my pursuit of understanding and applying God’s word to my life?
Don’t be content to remain a baby Christian. There is meat aplenty in His word, but God will not force feed us. He gives the freedom to choose. What do you think? Milk or meat? It’s up to you.