I remember holding him as he slept in my arms. Carrying him around the house, taking countless pictures of him doing the same thing, changing his clothes—all as he kept sleeping.
When my little brother was an infant, I loved giving him a bottle, trying to get him to smile, and taking him on walks in his stroller. He was just a couple of days old when my grandma reminded me that, quick as a flash, he would soon be a one-month-old. That’s forever away, I thought, and couldn’t imagine it coming so fast.
Now he is speeding around on his bike (sans training wheels) and using words like “stoked” and “insane” and “nevertheless.” It happened. Quicker than she said it would. How did that sleepy little baby turn into a funny and sarcastic eight-year-old?
It Seems to Happen By Accident
At what point does a baby become a toddler, or a toddler join the ranks of preschoolers? We say they are “growing right before our eyes,” but we don’t really mean it. Our vision can’t pick up the imperceptible growth that happens every second.
My two-day-old baby brother did not decide to grow. He didn’t choose to grow, or pursue growth as some kind of major life goal or something to check off his baby bucket list. He just grew.
Not Really By Accident
We feed the children and water the plants, clothe the children and fertilize the garden. But all of the things we do only encourage what is already there—we don’t give them life. They already have that.
The life bestowed on every boy, girl, man, woman, dog, cat, elephant, flower, tree, starfish, and sea anemone comes from God – the “Author of Life” (Acts 3:15). Not from anything we do. Not from anything we invent or create or try to come up with alone.
With all the care we give, we help to keep that child or flower healthy, but its growth ultimately comes from the life God infused within it. We are freely given the life, and we are freely given the growth.
Like a Baby
Our spiritual growth—like our physical growth—can be tough to measure, but God has provided an example for us in Scripture and in life.
“Like newborn infants,” Peter wrote, “long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation” (1 Peter 2:2).
All my baby brother did was sleep and eat and repeat ad nauseam. Somehow he grew. When Paul wrote to first-century Christians, he didn’t tell them to grow. He told them to eat, knowing that spiritual food and nourishment would supply the growth they needed through the life God gives.
Like plants and children, our spiritual lives need nurturing. And like physical life, we can’t create spiritual life—God does that. We are given the life and we are given the growth. Freely.
Just like a baby.
Never an Accident
Ultimately, the favor of the Father shines on us like the blazing star that warms our gardens from light-years away. We can feed and clothe and water, but “God…gives the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7). We don’t have to “make” our children grow. We can’t even keep them from growing.
Similarly, the spiritual life breathed by God courses through us, growing us from the inside out in ways we don’t realize until much farther down the road. With healthy conditions—food, water, love, the favor of God—it just happens, like a miraculous accident. Which, of course, is no accident at all.