Having had our second child recently, the Lord is reminding me of some things that I have noticed, both about childhood and fatherhood. Since we're called to become like children (Matt 18:3), and since we are called to imitate our Heavenly Father (Matt 5:48), I have taken these observations seriously as opportunities to grow in my own faith, as God often reveals His deepest secrets through the simplest pictures. My hope is to share a handful of these reflections through a series of monthly blog posts.
1 Peter 2:2
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
...like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation...
If we're not careful, we can tend to idealize references to "newborn babies." I remember a famous businessman once joking:
"When I was an entrepreneur, I slept like a baby;
I woke up screaming and crying every 2 hours."
This is funny because "sleep like a baby" is supposed to be a peaceful sleep, but anybody who has been around a baby trying sleep knows that it's really not so simple. It's the same way with this verse: a newborn's hunger isn't as peaceful as one might expect. One of the first things you see as a new parent is a baby longing for milk. And it is not pretty! So we would do well to double check our intuition when we read this verse and NOT make the same "sleep like a baby" mistake and paint too calm of a picture in our minds of what this verse means.
This verse tells us to long for the Word of God like a newborn baby longs for milk. So how does a baby long for milk? There are 3 things I've taken to heart in the last few weeks of having a newborn:
Nothing else will satisfy a baby
A newborn baby is impossible to distract when it is hungry. When a baby is longing for milk, it is absolutely desperate and inconsolable until it gets fed. Nothing else, other than milk, will quench the thirst it feels.
I see this as a great goal for my life: that only the Word of God will satisfy me, that I would not be consoled by anything less than the regular and consistent revelation of God's Word to my heart. Just like a newborn baby, my goal is that I will not settle for anything less than the pure milk of the Word of God to satisfy all of the hunger pains I feel throughout my life.
Perfect contentment follows a feeding
When a newborn has partaken of pure milk, there's a peace and contentment which is without compare. A baby literally needs nothing else to be at rest.
For me this has been a great test of whether I have truly eaten, so to speak -- if I have heard from the Lord, it will surely quiet the stirring in my soul. And when I hear from Him, I can be at rest. Just like a newborn baby, the test of whether I have partaken of the pure milk of the Word is simple: am I satisfied? Am I at peace? If I simply check the box by doing my daily devotional, I may still leave hungry; but if I wait for His word, truly desiring and accepting nothing less than His Word for me in that moment, He will surely fulfill my hunger.
Even well-fed babies don't stay full for very long!
No matter how full of a feeding a baby receives, one thing inevitably happens: they always get hungry again, usually in just a couple of hours! It would be so nice to just feed them once a day, but they need to eat way more often than adults, actually!
For me this has been a great comfort and warning. It is a comfort to know that God wants to feed me many times throughout the day, and it is a warning that I might not be lulled into thinking that I can survive on infrequent interactions with my Heavenly Father. Just like a newborn baby, I can take comfort in knowing I have a Heavenly Father who is eager to meet my need every time I feel hunger. Jesus Himself testified that man shall live "by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God," which indicates a continual speaking on God's part. What great comfort we can take in knowing that God wants to speak every time we have a need.
But by the same token, just like a newborn baby, I should be gravely concerned if I don't need to eat often. Not getting hungry isn't a sign of health; it's a sign of sickness. Hunger is a sign of health! So then, far from being discouraged by feeling hunger pangs, I can take hope in knowing I'm becoming more like a child the more often I get hungry for God's living Word to me. But I should be troubled if I rarely need to eat. Someone who has "progressed" far beyond childlikeness may only need to eat once a day, or even only a few times a week, but someone who has truly become like a child will feel hunger many times a day, even if he or she has already had a solid meal!
These are some ways we can assess our hunger for the Lord, and evaluate our progress in the Christian faith. The path to childlikeness defies our own human ideas of maturity, but it is God's will for us to become more and more childlike in our dependence upon Him. So it is good to pay close attention to the pictures God gives us. May we be a church which longs to hear from God like a baby longs for milk: with an inconsolable hunger, which is satisfied only by God's Word; with a perfect peace upon hearing His Word, our hunger fulfilled completely; and with frequent hunger pangs, which, even though we experience rest and peace when we hear from the Lord, inevitably draw us back to Him again for more of His Word with great frequency.