Milk or Meat? Measuring Spiritual Growth

While laying in bed yesterday morning, nursing my little five-month-old Theodore, I watched him.

The milk was so comforting to him that he fell asleep, while his little mouth still lazily moved to continue making withdrawals.  When he finished on one side, I pulled him close onto my tummy, rolled over, and his hunger was ravenous.  Mind you, he'd already gotten more than half of his intake, but he was still aggressive in his pursuit of the last portion.  His little mouth open wide, he shook his head to one side and the other, back and forth, not fussing, but ferocious in his attempt to get what he needed.

He knew I would give and that it was coming, so it wasn't that he thought he might miss out.  This has been the routine for 6-10 times a day for more than 150 days.

But his desire was strong.

He had a need, and knows that I am his Need-Meeter.

It was right for him to turn to me, and to pursue until he got what he needed.

And it yielded in his satisfaction and growth.

It made me think of Scripture, and whether our desire for it, and pursuit of it, matches our need.

Do these descriptions describe us-- do they describe me? do they describe you?-- in our pursuit of Scripture?  (I promise I just wrote that last paragraph without thinking of this part)--

  • comforting
  • continually making withdrawals even when tired
  • partially finished but still hungry for more
  • ravenous
  • aggressive in pursuit
  • open wide
  • not fussing but ferocious in an attempt to get what is needed
I have been lazy lately in my pursuit of Scripture.  I've been consuming a lot of spiritual food prepared and "cooked" by other people.  Now, granted, I'm in that postpartum foggy season where I have to remember to trust that my Shepherd sees me with gentle, compassionate eyes, rather than taking on guilt or shame for being more exhausted, and less productive, than I might otherwise be.  

But here's the thing, the thing I wish wasn't true of any of us:

Milk is for babies.  

1 Peter 2:2, 1 Corinthians 3:2, and Hebrews 5:12-13 explicitly compare spiritual growth of a believer to the physical growth of a baby.

Laying in bed, whether crying or not, and hoping that the food will come to us is the action of a baby, both biologically and spiritually speaking.

It would be silly for me, as an adult, to lay around in bed and expect healthy, body-nourishing food to come into my mouth.  No, I have to go into the kitchen and cook.  The same is true spiritually.

While there is always the option of convenience food, something someone else has prepared for me that I just heat up in one form or another, that is not most healthful long-term- biologically or spiritually.  

I like the way the New Living Translation expresses this: 
"You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others.  Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God's word.  You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.  For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn't know how to do what is right."
There is maturity and health in learning to chop up my own vegetables, carefully and confidently wielding a knife to slice up meat, and knowing how to mix ingredients well, in order to prepare meals that will nourish my body in the ways that I need to grow.   That is true for my physical body and for my faith.

There are so many rabbit trails of analogy that I could pursue at this point-- 
  1. A skilled chef would not just prepare donuts, cake, and cookies to eat day in, day out.  No!  Anyone who spends time thinking about food knows that while excellent flavor and enjoyment of food is wonderful, wise choices must be made in order to effectively and healthfully grow the body.  The same is true spiritually.  Only someone on the level of a toddler thinks that suckers, chocolate chips, and donuts could make a good diet... to grow, we have to consume things that make our spiritual "teeth" grind, and something that builds us up.  Consumed over time, too much sugary fluff will make us sick, not strong. 
  2. Someone who makes food for others becomes responsible for what they serve up.   James 3:1 warns those who would teach: "you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness."
  3. We can get a sense of where we are, spiritually speaking, by how skilled we are at procuring, preparing, and consistently consuming nourishing spiritual food.  It's not an exact science, but I think we can get a good sense of where we "sit" spiritually by examining what we're taking in, who is cooking it up, and how healthy and regular our portions and ingredients are.
And those may all be rabbit trails worth pursuit.

But the main point I wanted to make today is this: when I look at my new little son, I see a tiny, needy human who is aware of his need, and who cries out on a regular basis to have his need met.  He looks to me, rightly, as his loving Need-Meeter, and is satisfied, pleasant, growing healthily, and content.  

Do I, like him, turn to the One who will meet my need?  

Do I do what is in my power to procure what will help me grow?

Am I consistent in my pursuit of, and discerning selection of, spiritual food?

Am I healthy and growing?

Cooking photo courtesy of


Owlhaven said...

Good thoughts, thanks for sharing, Jess!

Renee said...

Thank you! Great analogy!

Bethany Weathersby said...

Such good stuff!! I especially like the following quote.

"Laying in bed, whether crying or not, and hoping that the food will come to us is the action of a baby, both biologically and spiritually speaking."