The road to maturity can be messy

Published 4:54 pm Friday, August 31, 2018

The closer little Raegan gets to her first birthday the more independence she grasps.  As we were having our usual Sunday family lunch at our house last week, she joined in the feeding frenzy that she saw the rest of us participating in.  Just weeks ago it was entertaining to watch her eat from a spoon as her mother fed her, but things have moved up a notch now; when Jessica tried to feed her with the spoon Sunday, she rejected it.  It was not because Nana’s cooking was not good to her—she loves it.  It was simply that she wanted to feed herself, so she did with  those little fingers and enjoyed the feast with the rest of us.

Raegan’s journey of growth is nowhere near fully developed yet; she makes a mess as she eats.  Nana has been involved in the rearing of a lot of children over the decades, so she knows how to handle the mess:  put a sheet under the high chair and let Papa take it outside and shake it off after the meal.  I can assure you that Papa does not mind because it is a joy to watch that little girl learn how to do things on her own.  I do not scold her for that behavior because I know she is eager to learn.

Sometimes we might be tempted to look judgmentally at people who have just started their journey of faith in Christ.  When we are tempted to do so, we need to quickly remind ourselves that becoming a mature Christian does not happen suddenly.  There are mistakes that will be made and there are many things to be learned.

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Gale and I hit a milestone last week that seems hard to fathom:  our oldest grandchild turned fifteen—not fifteen months, but fifteen years.  When Mallory sent me that picture of her standing in front of the DDS office displaying a huge smile while holding her newly acquired learner’s permit, it was another reminder of how quickly time passes by.

It goes without saying that we have much different expectations from Mallory, who is a young lady now, than we do of Raegan.  I expect Raegan to get food on the floor; I expect Mallory to eat like an adult.  I don’t mind cleaning up Raegan’s mess; I would not be happy to have to pick food up off the floor behind an able minded fifteen year old.  Spiritually, our behaviors and responses should grow and change as we become more familiar with the things of God through Bible study, time with Him in prayer, and spending time with others who are following the ways of Christ.

When I watch Raegan developing her skills, it is obvious that she pays a lot of attention to what others are doing, then she tries to follow their actions.  Sunday morning as her eight year old sister sang a solo at church, Raegan’s eyes were locked on Addy and her response could be heard all over the auditorium.  She saw something that she wants to participate in, and she will as time goes on.  Paul, one of the great men of the Bible, applied that concept to learning and growing spiritually when he wrote, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1, New International Version).

As mature Christians, we need to be very careful that we do not allow a critical attitude toward immature believers to destroy them, but that we instead look for opportunities to guide them toward deeper and greater things in the faith.  Such an investment in others is sometimes messy and requires a lot of patience, but it is worth the effort and inconvenience when it yields a lasting impact on another’s life.