Janet and I returned from Chicago today after spending yesterday securing our Global Entry passes and then spending the night with Janet’s sister and brother-in-law in Darien. We left the western suburbs mid-morning and had a wonderful drive back to Indiana. Somewhere around 1:00 pm we passed a billboard for Fair Oaks Farms, a well known dairy farm in northern Indiana that is a destination for school groups and children from around the midwest.
In fact, on occasion, Janet and several of our children and grandchildren make the drive north, meeting part of the Chicago clan at Fair Oaks to have lunch and tour the facility. I had never been there before today, but Janet felt like stopping and having a grilled cheese sandwich, which she said is out of this world. She was right.
After lunch, Janet invited me to walk around and tell me about some of the things they had at the farm – a mini museum, tours of the dairy barns, and best of all, the birthing barn. Now I want to remind you that this isn’t some small little dairy operation. They have more than 30,000 cows on a number of dairy farms in the area. Thirty thousand cows! And you know what? There are an average of 80 calves born each day! So no matter what time you arrive at the farm, you are virtually assured of seeing the birth of a calf if you head to the birthing barn.
Janet and I walked through the barn and then the nursery, ending up in the area reserved for people to sit and watch the actual birth of the calves. There are two viewing areas and we arrived after one of the cows had given birth within the hour. And in the second area, a cow was in labor and the actual birth process was just starting to take place. So we sat down, with perhaps fifty other people, to watch the birth. Around twenty minutes later, an employee went into the pen and actually helped deliver the new calf.
She, the baby, was exhausted from the experience of birth and just rested on her side trying to get her bearings. Mom stood up and started to nuzzle and lick her newborn calf. The whole thing was amazing to watch. The calf looked like a “mini-me” – the same black and white color pattern and everything. The mother kept trying to get her calf to stand, but that wasn’t going to happen for a while. The audience started to get into the act and kept providing encouragement to the calf.
Every time the newborn tried to stand up, she fell over in the hay and lay exhausted until she gathered enough strength to try again. And each time there was a collective sigh from those of us who were watching – wishing the little one could stand on her own.
What struck me was how small, even at 75#, the newborn looked in relation to her mother. And how vulnerable – unable to even stand, and completely dependent on her mother for milk and everything else in order to live. I’m sure that you realize by now that I couldn’t help but compare this miraculous event to how people are when they are “born again” in the family of Jesus Christ.
When people first accept Christ, they are like the newborn calf. They are totally dependent on others to help “feed them” and help them grow in their faith. As they become more mature, they are able to stand on their own and, eventually, feed and sustain themselves. By the way, those of us watching, keep cheering them on and hoping that they will stand on their own as soon as possible. Sooner or later, they can actually become spiritual “parents” in their own right – helping others to accept Christ as Lord and Savior. And they can be role models of behavior, and mentors, for those members of the faith who are younger and still maturing.
Paul, in 1 Corinthians, makes several statements about this very subject – and the author of the book of Hebrews does the same thing – he talks about the maturing of one’s faith life. In Hebrews, the writer states that Jesus represents eternal salvation. It is clearly evident that the author is somewhat annoyed that his disciples have not yet learned enough to teach others. Instead, they are still infants in the faith and can’t yet stand on their own.
In Heb. 5:11-14, we are told, “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” I was certainly reminded of these biblical truths in the birthing barn this afternoon.
My encouragement this evening is to let you know that you can be a spiritual parent to someone who is less mature in the faith than you are. The world is full of people who need education and help in growing in the faith and you can benefit the kingdom of God by getting off the sidelines and into the game. My prayer is that you will take up the challenge and in addition to mentoring someone else, you will be blessed with someone who will continue to feed and nurture you in the faith. After all, you can never be too “grown up” in the kingdom of God. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…