There comes a golden moment when you as a parent can step back and bask in the joy of having birthed and raised a helpful human being. When was that moment was for us? When Alexis began, on her own accord, without any prompting on our part, to voluntarily take care of her little brother Austin.
When Austin cried and didn’t stop, I would mutter to myself, as many fathers do, “Why is Austin crying?” I, of course, didn’t expect any rational answer back from this self-imposed quiz. Babies can’t tell us why they are crying. Some mothers have the ability to discern between the cries of hunger from the cries of poo from the cries of wee. I don’t possess that gift. So it came as a genuine surprise when once I muttered out loud, “Why is Austin crying?” and a clear, sharp voice of a three year old girl responded, “Austin’s crying because he’s poo-pooed in his nappy. We have to change him.” Uh…May be I should check his nappy. Thanks, 3 year old mum! And before I could get to the nappy drawer, Alexis’ little feet were scurrying across the carpet in our bedroom, they arrived at the chest of drawers where we keep nappies, and she pulled out all the right equipement: a cloth for him to lay on, wet baby wipes, and a fresh new nappy – the right one, too, not her size, but his size. What a delight to watch her grow up, and by that I mean, what a delight to see she volunteered to help.
What are the milestones in human maturity? I will share 3 with you, 2 on this post and 1 in the next.The first milestone is when a person makes the quantum leap from unhelpful to helpful, from needy to meeting their own needs. I mentioned children can be helpful by feeding themselves, then helping around the house with anything that we ask.
The second milestone comes when a person makes the leap from helping as they are told to helping without being told, from waiting to be given a job to anticipating a need and meeting it without any monitoring. This is a skill set that employers, bosses, and pastors all over the world are ready to pay for! It is the attitude of a mature and helpful person. This is basically the goal of parenting, of educating, of making disciples, of raising leaders. Do this right, and you as a leader have done your job.
Family is the model for church. The lessons of family parallel those of church. When a person becomes Christian, they have not arrived; rather they are snatched out of darkness into marvelous light, and like a tender plant begin a process of growth (that’s why it’s called a ‘new birth’). The only way we can tell a Christian is truly growing is to watch how helpful they become.
The first step to maturity is they begin to feed themselves. Given that 80% of Christians do not regularly read their Bibles, and many leaders admit to not having read their entire Bible even once, the state of the church at large is quite needy and infantile. Too many come to church wishing to be fed spiritually once a week, and when they become disgruntled they leave church with the ubiquitous parting remark, “I don’t feel I’m being fed any more.” If they were to go somewhere else and maintain the same unhelpful attitude, they would not grow much there either. In many ways pastors have to deal with perennial babies in the family. Without question, the first step towards natural and spiritual maturity is to start feeding yourself without supervision.
The second step to Christian maturity is to help when you’re told. We should only ask a mature person at this level once. A member of the family should want to help with family chores out of love and relationship. Being told more than once shows we don’t love other people. If they don’t think your instruction is important, they don’t think you’re important. Immediate attention to an instruction will determine future success and will be required later in life, so they should learn it now.
Comment: I’ve made “helpfulness” the key job description of a child, and hence of a Christian. What do you think are the marks of baby maturity or Christian maturity?