My husband and I have been very blessed with our three babies. All of them learned to sleep through the night at an early age, the gold standard by which babies seem to be measured these days. They have been cooperative in all areas that I can think of right now. Our youngest child is eight months old, and she is a joyful, friendly baby—is there any other kind of eight-month-old? In the vein of author Robert Fulghum, I’d like to notice with you several traits I have observed in babies, realizing that sometimes important lessons can be gleaned from the most obvious places.
First, babies don’t hold grudges. I’ve seen our two-year-old scare her little sister out of her wits with a loud noise or a sudden movement, and the next minute the baby is all smiles and giggles again. She quickly forgets the unpleasantness of the past and focuses on the thrill of the moment. She doesn’t hold her older sister’s mistakes over her head indefinitely or until some punishment has been enforced. Babies move on.
Couldn’t we adults be more like that? Couldn’t we bounce back quickly from the annoying things that happen and get on with the important things in life? The inspired apostle Paul warns against hanging on to things like “bitterness” and “malice,” and urges us instead to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32). When something out of the past threatens to thwart new progress toward our goals, it may help to remember Paul’s encouraging words to the Philippians concerning their faith: “Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal . . .” (Philippians 3:13-15). Paul calls those who are able to rise to this challenge “mature” -- I’d like to earn that label; wouldn’t you?
Along with the ability babies have of forgetting what took place in the past, there’s another interesting stepping stone in their mental development. I’m sure there’s a technical term for what happens after you take a toy away from a baby who’s only a few months old. As far as that baby is concerned, that toy never existed. It is immediately erased from his or her memory. The baby doesn’t look for the toy, doesn’t wonder where it went, and many times doesn’t seem to care or be distressed that it is gone. Babies lack faith in what they cannot see at that moment.
So it is with the spiritually weak among us. Sometimes the struggle to hold fast to our faith despite the worldly pressures around us is overwhelmingly difficult. Paul writes longingly of that time when his earthly labors will be past and reminds his fellow believers that “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Entangled in our daily trials and concerns, it’s easy to forget that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Our God is real -- He loves and knows us (I Peter 5:7; Matthew 10:30; Jeremiah 1:5). We must strive to build up our faith through study of the Scriptures (Romans 10:17), through prayer with our Father (Matthew 21:22), and through the cultivation of strong relationships with other Christians who can encourage us.
Secondly, I’ve noticed that babies are enthusiastic investigators of just about anything and anyone who comes along. They’ll reach out to grab a new object, eager to explore and learn about it, and will stretch out their little arms to be picked up and carried to a new place to see new faces. They’re thirsty for new information and are ready to learn, learn, learn. Every day brings more knowledge into their lives.
The excitement that we often felt in our younger years about acquiring Bible knowledge may have waned as we grew older. We may be feeling self-satisfied with our level of mastery of God’s word, unmotivated to challenge ourselves to a deeper, fuller understanding of the Scriptures. We may sit through the adult Bible classes, providing rote answers to workbook questions when called on by the teacher. We need to wake up! God expects much more than that from us, His spiritual soldiers, in the fight against the “rulers of the darkness of this age” (Ephesians 6:10-20). We should reread this passage in Ephesians frequently to refresh our minds about how real this struggle is.
As women, we must be energized in our study of the Bible -- ready to teach others, to lead children in thorough, exciting Bible classes, and to fulfill our own obligation as Bible students competently. We set ourselves up for spiritual annihilation if we fail in this effort (Hosea 4:6). We can’t be passive in our Christianity, but actively look for ways to reach out to others with an encouraging word, with a gentle admonition to do better, and with the message of salvation.
Finally, there are fewer beings on this earth who seem to be happier than babies. When their stomachs are full, when they’ve had a nap, and when their diapers are clean, they are truly, often deliriously happy. My little one beams from ear to ear with just the joy of being alive, and it brings me joy in turn to see her so happy. In her own way, she provides a good example to me of finding happiness in simply being alive -- in God’s beautiful gift to us of life itself. Oh, if we could only appreciate it more!
Why can’t we seem to put our troubles aside long enough to be happy, at least some of the time? The Scriptures are full of entreaties to this effect: Paul writes to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4)! David’s psalms are often exuberant -- for example, Psalm 100 begins, “Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all ye lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing.” And Peter praises the Christians facing persecution with these touching words, reminding them that they have much to be happy about: “Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith -- the salvation of your souls” (I Peter 1:8-9).
In considering what brings about spiritual growth and maturity, it might seem silly at first to mention babies or little children. Discussing the attributes of little babies might appear to trivialize the very important issues that we face as Christians. However, Christ Himself used a child as an example of humility when teaching His followers about spiritual greatness (Matthew 18:3-4), and He welcomed the children who were brought to Him, “for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:13-14). Those who were listening carefully to Jesus were able to pick up some valuable information about true Christianity.
No doubt, the mothers and grandmothers who may be reading this will be able to think of other ways that little ones can represent lessons for us in our walk as Christian women. I have only listed a few here. As my children grow, I will do my best to teach them “the way [they] should go” (Proverbs 22:6). But I’m sure they’ll continue to teach me many things, too . . . if I will just be wise enough to learn.
Lydia [Humphries] Casey is a homemaker with three small daughters. Her husband, Evan, preaches for the Crestwood church of Christ in Crestwood, Kentucky. Before her marriage she worked in radio broadcasting and teaching, both in the US and abroad. She graduated from Western Kentucky University with a B.A. in English and Allied Language Arts. She was Evan’s “help meet” in Hungary for two years (1999-2001) while he was preaching and teaching the gospel there. Their residence was in Budapest. You can communicate with her at LHCasey@bellsouth.net.