Enjoying the Growing Pains
I can’t sleep. My wife and I are expecting our third child. These two things aren’t related. Better said, they are not causally related. Our oldest is two and a half and our newly minted “middle child” just recently turned one. Both of them are in incredible points of their development that have been battering against my symbolic and typological head. Let me explain and apply.
The newly minted one year old, let’s call him Judah since his name is Judah, has recently begun to walk and climb all over the house. Chasing sister for toys. Chasing mom to be held. Judah emits guttural noises everywhere he goes. Both of pleasure and pain. The joy of seeing your child delightfully happy is marginally mitigated by the fact that the house is perpetually littered with toys and the child’s face littered with bruises from falls.
Our oldest, let’s call her Kenzie since her name is Kenzie, is a talking machine. She memorized song lyrics early on, so this year we started her with the Heidelberg Catechism. Kenize has nine Q&A’s memorized and recently was able to recite the entire Lord’s Prayer. She naturally recites well, but it’s her natural talking that is funny. It’s the words and sentences she develops in her own mind that cause my wife and I to roll around in laughter.
Growing Disciples Make Messes
Where am I going with this?
Last night, as I struggled to sleep, I was overcome by the realization that my kids were growing. Now this is a duh moment. I can see them growing with my eyes. But intellectually I perceived that bones were growing, organs expanding, and motor skills developing. My children at some point would no longer be children. Christian discipleship is like this. The Scriptures are replete with this imagery so I’ll limit myself:
“Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Pt. 2:2).
“Until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:13-14).
Almost all of us have read these verses. We have crafted ideas of what they mean and what they look like. God has placed real life images in front of my face. Christians are born unable to take care of themselves. The church is the delivering and tending nurse. The young Christian coos and makes small messes. They begin to mature. We hope they mature. They must mature. In this process, they become like Judah—a walking, tumbling, crying mess. And the church needs to be ready. These child-like disciples need to be fed constantly. Cleaned more constantly. They require direction on how to interact with the world. They won’t stay this way for long, but the instruction must be given if we expect them to mature.
Then these fresh faced Christians become little walking, talking Kenzies. They learn doctrine by rote. They talk and sing and sound like Christians. They do little chores here or there and are all-around delightful to have. But they also say things that make no sense. Sometimes they mean to be silly and other times they do not. This can be frustrating for the more mature, so the church must be patient. We must teach not only what words mean, but the proper tones to convey their truth winsomely. This immaturity shall pass in time. And new stages of Christian discipleship will be crossed. But the church should not be surprised at the messes created by young disciples. We should take joy that they are in fact growing.
Joshua Torrey is a New Mexico boy in an Austin, TX world. He is husband to Alaina and father to Kenzie & Judah and spends his free time studying for the edification of his household. These studies include the intricacies of hockey, football, curling, beer, and theology. You can follow him @AustinPreterism and read his theological musings and running commentary of the Scriptures at The Torrey Gazette.