Growing from Baby Believer to Mature Christian
- Thursday, August 18, 2011
Until I sat down to try to explain to someone about Jesus and repentance and the need to be born again, I truly believed there was no experience so awesome as becoming a mother. But when I actually led my friend Bernadine to the place of praying to receive Jesus as her Savior and being born into the Kingdom of God—in my own bumbling way and all while we sat on the grass at the park with my son and her nephews playing nearby—I realized I’d been wrong.
Becoming a sort of spiritual mother by helping to facilitate someone’s birth into God’s family is at least as exciting, if not more so, than birthing your own physical child into the world.
If I’d had any sense I would have carried the analogy to the next level. With all the experience I had at changing dirty diapers and living on 15 minutes of sleep a day, I shouldn’t have been surprised that spiritual newborns are just as messy, demanding, and self-absorbed as physical ones.
But scarcely being beyond that stage myself, the connection never occurred to me—which is why I was so surprised when Bernadine kept showing up on my doorstep with questions I couldn’t answer.
“Which is the right way to be baptized—sprinkling or dunking—and why?”
“If the Hebrew word ‘Sabbath’ means Saturday or ‘the last day of the week,’ how did our day of worship get changed to Sunday?”
“What’s the difference between pre-trib, mid-trib, and post-trib, and which do you think is right?”
“Do you believe in a literal six-day creation period, and if so, how does evolution ft in—or does it?”
“What’s the significance of the Urim and Thummim?” (Huh???)
I had helped to create a “monster”—one with a voracious appetite to read and study the Bible and to ask lots of questions.
Actually, this would have been a good thing if the person she was asking had been a Christian long enough to answer with confidence. But she was dealing with yours truly, who had yet to find the perfect Proverbs 31 role model, and my confidence level regarding the finer points of theology was definitely one of the looser cannons on my deck of life.
I’d been listening to sermons and going to Sunday school for a couple of years by then, but I realized when I tried to answer Bernadine’s questions that I was just repeating what I’d heard someone else say. When she took a question to the next level—“What did the pastor mean when he said he believes in a literal millennium, and do you agree with him?”—I was stumped.
This should have been another clue that I had a long way to go in my own spiritual walk; instead, it just irritated me and made me wish Bernadine would quit hanging around so much. The newfound glow of spiritual motherhood was beginning to fade.
Then one morning while I was volunteering at the preschool and helping to supervise the kids on the playground, Chris—who insisted he was “almost four,” though his birthday was still eight months away—came running up to me with a panicky look on his flushed face.
“Help me! Those kids are after me!”
My mama bear instinct kicked in as I began scanning the playground for the bullies who had threatened my cub.
Imagine my surprise when the only ones chasing him were three little girls, none of whom could have been more than two and a half. As they charged toward us, giggling and squealing, Chris ducked behind me and did his best to become invisible. (Actually, it wasn’t that hard. He weighed thirty pounds soaking wet, and I was still carrying those extra “baby fat” pounds I’d put on before he was born—all of which had somehow settled on my hips.)
Unfortunately for Chris, my “wide glide” didn’t do him any good, as the girls darted behind me and spotted their prey.
“Chris! We found you! Come and play with us!”
“I don’t want to,” Chris whined, his voice muffed as he wrapped his arms around my right thigh. “Leave me alone!”
“Chris,” I said, peeling him off me, “what’s wrong with you? The girls just want to play.”
My son glared up at me as if I’d agreed to sell him into slavery. “I don’t want to play with them. They’re pests, and they bug me!”
“That’s not nice,” I said in my most authoritative tone. “You shouldn’t say that about anyone. Apologize to the girls.”
He shook his head. “Not until you do.”
I frowned. “Why should I apologize to the girls?”
By that time the veins were popping out on my son’s forehead and neck, and he answered, “Not them, Mom. Your friend. You know, Marcus and Daniel’s aunt. The one that comes over all the time, the one who you sometimes hide from so she’ll go away.”
“Chris,” I said, trying to maintain my calm, even as I felt my face going red-hot, “that’s not the same. Bernadine is—”
“She’s a pest,” he insisted. “You said so. And you said she bugs you. I heard you—when you were hiding in the kitchen when she rang the doorbell. Remember?”
I did remember. I looked from Chris to the girls, who stood staring up at me, their eyes wide, waiting to see how I would deal with my son’s unacceptable behavior.
I was waiting to see the same thing. How was I going to handle this situation, especially since I knew Chris was right? That was the worst part—being busted by an “almost four-year-old” in front of three of his only slightly younger peers.
“You’re right,” I said, swallowing my shattered pride along with the growing lump in my throat. “I do owe Bernadine an apology. Thank you for pointing that out.”
Chris’s eyebrows shot up, as it dawned on him that he had just pulled off a coup that could easily set him up as the godfather of the playground once word got out—and neither of us had any doubt that our audience of three would make sure it did. I realized it was up to me to head things off at the pass.
“You’re right that I owe Bernadine an apology, and I will call her when we get home and take care of that. But for now, you need to apologize too. If you don’t want to play with the girls, fine.” I stopped and looked over at the deflated trio, whose shoulders sagged at my pronouncement, and then turned my attention back to Chris. “But calling them pests and saying they bug you is not fine. For that you need to apologize.”
Now it was time for Chris’s shoulders to sag. He gave one last glance of appeal, but I nixed it with a shake of head. He sighed. “Sorry,” he whispered.
“A little louder, please.”
He sighed again. “Sorry.”
“What are you sorry about?”
“Calling them names,” he mumbled.
“And why are you sorry?”
Our eyes locked in a brief battle of wills, but he finally gave in. “Because it isn’t nice.”
I looked back at the girls, who seemed stunned by the turn of events. “Girls, Chris has apologized to you. Can you tell him you forgive him?”
They nodded in unison as their singsong voices pronounced absolution.
"Good. Now, go play. Next time you want someone to play with you, just ask. If they say no, then respect that and leave them alone. Understood?”
They nodded again, their eyes growing wider as they realized that they too had been reprimanded. Then, as if on cue, they scampered away.
“Are you really going to tell Bernadine you’re sorry?” Chris asked, still staring after the girls."
“I really am.”
He stood there a moment, and then, apparently satisfied, nodded and went off to find some “guy stuff” to do.
I, on the other hand, was not looking forward to fulfilling my promise—though I knew I had no choice. God had orchestrated an example that was too clear to ignore. Three little girls, more than a bit overzealous and demanding in their self-absorbed quest for attention, being rejected by one only slightly older than them and labeled as “pests”—the correlation was just too obvious.
When I called Bernadine, she was much more gracious than I could have hoped. She admitted she’d always known I’d considered her a pest.
“You weren’t the only one. Even my mom called me a pest. She was always telling me to leave her alone and go find something to do. So I’d usually just go eat something. I suppose that’s why there’s so much of me to love.”
She paused, but before I could think of something appropriate to say, she added, “Seriously, Kathi, I know I can get on people’s nerves. I don’t mean to, but... I just do. But it’s different with God. I know I never get on His nerves, or bug Him, or make Him wish I’d go away and find something else to do. No matter what, He’s always there for me, and that’s the best part about being a Christian.”
No matter what.
Bernadine was right. But who would have thought I’d be chastised with such a great truth from a baby Christian? I knew she didn’t mean it as a criticism, but I was humbled by the timely reminder.
Bernadine and I bonded through that experience, as we recognized our mutual need for discipleship. We were both in the very early stages of our Christian life—rug rats and toddlers learning to walk—and though our heavenly Father was the only One who could ultimately grow us up, we also recognized our need for other believers to help us along the way—to model the correct way to walk, to pick us up when we fell, and to cheer us on as we took each step.
While I felt as if I’d dodged a loose cannon this time I knew there were more to come…
Making it personal
Think back to when you were a new Christian. Who helped you? Have you ever become irritated by someone you consider a pest—a person who bugged you with constant questions and demands for your time? In light of my experience at the preschool, can you see those demanding people in a different light? In what ways can you set proper limits, while still making yourself available to help fellow believers grow in their walk with the Lord?
And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. —1 John 4:21
This article is an adapted excerpt from Kathi Macias' book, How Can I Run a Tight Ship When I'm Surrounded by Loose Cannons? (New Hope Publishers, 2009) Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Kathi Macias, popular speaker and prolific author, is an Angel-award winning writer who has published nearly thirty books, including BEYOND ME: LIVING A YOU-FIRST LIFE IN A ME-FIRST WORLD and her latest release, HOW CAN I RUN A TIGHT SHIP WHEN I’M SURROUNDED BY LOOSE CANNONS? Whether keyboarding her latest book, keynoting a conference, or riding on the back of her husband's Harley, Kathi “Easy Writer” Macias is a lady on a mission to communicate God’s vision. Her insightful words—filled with passion, humor and soul nourishment—refresh audiences from all walks of life. To learn more about Kathi or to book her for your next event, visit www.KathiMacias.com.
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