My BFF called me today and made a confession. “Nicole, my 3 year old wanted to feed herself her hot dog and yet I really didn’t want her to! I really wanted to hold on to the hot dog and feed it to her myself because I knew she would make a mess!” On the surface my friend’s reasoning may seem ok, I mean, isn’t it better to avoid having to take time and clean up a toddler’s messy attempts at feeding themselves? Shouldn’t a parent want to eliminate any unnecessary extra work and make life easier for themselves in any way possible, given the grueling effort it requires just to be a parent? Well, being a non-parent (made up word?), I would have to say “yes and…yes”. BUT, my friend also recognized the deeper issue at hand which was this:
Her child now has a desire for independence.
There it is. Every parent’s (or at least mom’s) battle. I’ve heard it said that parenting is 18 years of letting go. Well, if that’s true, how many parents are truly successful at it? I’m told that once you have a kid they are the soul focus of your being. From the second they are out of the womb they are completely and unashamedly DEPENDENT on you. Yet at some point most kids will begin saying “I want to do it myself!”. Being raised in a single-parent home, I know my own battle for independence from the child’s perspective. I know it was even more difficult for my mom to let go because for so long she was my sole care giver. Even though I am now 30 I see her battle with this. She’s come a long way and I definitely appreciate her efforts! I’m sure it isn’t easy but speaking as the child it’s so necessary for parents to let go. Otherwise the child grows up sheltered and unable to do things for themselves. God forbid something happens and they don’t have their parent around to take care of them.
This same principal of “letting go” can be seen in leadership. Recently I was given more responsibility at my church. I already have certain duties I carry out but this particular item was a little outside of my comfort zone. Simply because it was generally the “pastor’s job”. Thankfully my pastors have a great understanding that to effectively develop leaders, the best approach is to come along side them and undergird them while teaching to lead. Sadly, so many churches focus on developing leadership in only a few individuals, while the rest sit on the pew and remain stagnant spiritually. The leaders of the church become burnt out and the gifts in the church members remain untapped. I think this is a result of the “nurturing effect” (made up term). It is the mother’s & pastor’s natural desire to nurture the child as it is the father’s and apostle’s natural tendency to train up those given into their care and send them out into the world.
We clearly need both roles to develop mature offspring both spiritually and naturally.
So maybe it’s a little too early for my friend’s daughter to feed herself certain foods, I mean the kid is barely 3 years old. But is it too early for the church to demonstrate the maturity a 3 year old demonstrates when eating a hot dog solo? To demonstrate such leadership? Certainly not. It is fine time for the body of Christ to eat and digest the meat that God has provided for us in His word. Even if our attempts at tackling a more advanced meal result in a bit of a mess, we can rest assured our heavenly Father will be there to clean us up :-).
Galatians 4: 1-5
Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
1 Cor 3:1-3
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal.
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.