The Baby Bottle

 The Baby Bottle

     In the 1980s, the youth counselors and I did several “leader-in-training” retreats with the youth.  One exercise we did was to take an object and as one group, discern all that they could about it.  When the youth thought that they had listed all the qualities or attributes of the object, then several questions were asked, which inevitably led them to more details or a deeper description of the item.

     Take for instance, a baby bottle.  Maybe you might pause right now for a moment, close your eyes and imagine a baby bottle.  And think how you would describe it.  I wonder what comes to your mind first.  What are its obvious characteristics?

     So we set the baby bottle on the table in the midst of the youth and they began to describe it.  It’s small, round, maybe six inches tall.  It’s white.  It has a lid that comes off with a rubber nipple that’s flexible and has a little hole in it.  The bottle is made of plastic.  It has ridges on the side that indicates how much is in it.  It’s flat on the bottom so it can stand up.  Then there’s a little pause.  There’s no doubt that all of these answers are very accurate.  Yet, does that cover it?  Is that all there is to it?  Hmmm….time for a question such as how is it used?

     Another round of answers begins…milk or juice is put into it and like a straw it is sucked on to drink it.

     Okay…who uses it?  The baby.  All by itself?  Well, no, the parents fix it.  What does that mean?  Well, they pour the milk into the bottle, and they may have to warm it up.  If the baby is young, the parents will put the baby in their lap, and hold the bottle for it. 

     So now, its description is a little more than just about what we see.  It includes its function, who uses it and its relationship to the intended user.

     Last week our meditation was about our vision and it being blurred by our surroundings which may be the background view, our circumstances, even our misguided focus.  Using this exercise, we take our vision to another level.

     If we are asked to describe God, sometimes we don’t get past the first level of what we see or what we think we see.  We describe him with images that we have seen – He’s like an angel, a grandfather, a shepherd, even creatures in nature.  We forget that there is more than meets the eye.  As we grow, as we mature as Christians, we move beyond our initial understanding of what God may look like or how we might describe Him to what He has done in preparation for our growth.  It’s obvious that the baby doesn’t get its own food, fix it, or even feed itself by holding it until he/she gets older.  It needs help until it grows and becomes strong and coordinated enough to start feeding itself, eventually giving up the bottle and starting to use a sippy cup and spoon for softer food.  And then the solid food follows - with opportunities to experience various flavors and textures.

     How might this relate to being a disciple of Christ, a Christ-follower?  We feast on God’s Word; we share in communion His Living Word.  He has given us the Word; He has given us His Son.  As new Christians, we are like infants.  After accepting Christ as Lord and Savior, we hunger to understand more.  We go to worship, maybe join a Sunday School class or a Bible study.  We hear an insightful lesson or challenging message.  We listen to the prayers and words of hymns and choral music.  Others are doing the preparation for us and we come and are fed and then we leave.  Is that all there is to it?  Does that cover it?   Being a Christ-follower, that is.  Does what we hear on Sunday or in a weekday study make a difference in us for the rest of the week?

     Jesus said in John 15:5:

     "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing."

     We are the branches.  Branches change.  Branches grow.  Branches are connected to the vine.  Branches receive the same nutrients as the vine and produces much fruit.  Without the vine, one cannot produce fruit.

     At what point does one begin to move from being fed by others to being fed by the vine?  To look at the scripture one more time - "He that abideth in me, and I in him" indicates that the connection is not a one-way street.  The connection goes both ways.  In Matthew 7:7-8, Jesus also said:

     "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened."

     As a Christ-follower, we all were baby Christians at one time.  God has placed persons in our lives to feed us, to nurture us, to help us grow.  As one becomes a mature Christian, our roots in Him grow as one asks, seeks, and knocks.  As one becomes a mature Christian, one finds ways to connect their talents and gifts to the work of God's kingdom.  As one becomes a mature Christian, one finds ways to covenant with other brothers and sisters in Christ.  As one becomes a mature Christian, one finds ways to serve the least of these.  And as one becomes a mature Christian, one finds ways to feed, nurture, and help others grow.  This is the cycle of discipleship.

     May our connection to the vine grow ever stronger.  May our connection to the vine produce much fruit.  May we realize that it is more than just about being fed...it may be...or should be... that we are the connection, the door which God uses to bring another to Himself.  In Jesus' name.  Amen.