What do fifty pound bags and a wooden garage door have to do with spiritual maturity?
There are some epochal firsts in a young man’s life. These are the big boy moments that signal growth and maturity. The first time you pump gas into the car. The first time you mow the lawn. The first time you carry the groceries to the kitchen from the back of the car. All exciting events until you realize that you must rinse and repeat endlessly throughout the rest of your life. Then you start longing for the day you have a son of your own and he can do all that stuff. “You’re a man, buddy, you’re a man,” you tell the four-year-old while he looks like he’s actually going to throw his back out to get a five pound bag of sugar into the house.
I grew up in a larger than average size family, not huge but larger than average, but I was the only son. When the grocery wagon pulled up in the drive, (no wait, I think they used to call those station wagons), it was literally loaded with goods. There were so many bags, boxes, bottles, and cans it looked more like you were opening your own store rather than bringing in the family foodstuffs.
Being the only son, I had the responsibility to transfer the hoard from the car to the kitchen. Keep in mind this is a job the state would pay three workers for eight hours to accomplish. You stared into the back of the wagon and it usually played out one of two ways. You moaned and groaned and carried in one or two things at a time and the job took about four hours to complete. Or, your mind shifted into high gear to think of every way you could do this to get done as fast and with as few trips as possible.
Once I was into the job, I wanted to be done as quick as possible. One of the greatest grocery innovations were the plastic bags with the loop handles. I could get anywhere from one to three bags per finger. This meant bringing in fifteen bags at a time. Of course, you had to be extra careful not to drop any and at the end your hands looked like they belonged to a ninety-year-old arthritic.
With the advent of bulk item, wholesale, warehouse stores the game has changed a little bit. We now have to carry fewer total items, but each item is bigger. You can get beans, rice, sugar, flour, and such in fifty pound bags and a box of toilet paper so big it nearly defies placement in the back of the van. So we have less things to carry overall, but the ones we do carry are heavier.
Not too long ago I was participating in just such an unloading. Let’s just say I was a little cranky that day. To start, I had to open the garage door, which is a heavy wooden door without an electric opener or the proper spring tension. I am just guessing about the tension, but it seems it ought to be easier to open than it is. Then we had to haul the heavy items up the ramp and into the kitchen.
My joints were sore and complaining with every tug, lift, and pull. In my mind I was complaining and wishing it were easier. If we had an electric opener, the garage would be opened by pushing a button. If I had some sort of cart, I could save some of the carrying and transfer more at one time. If I had more sons . . .
Then I got to thinking. What if everything were easy? In other words, what if I reduced the friction, or resistance to every physical task. Would I be better off? I realized I would not be better off. I might save some time and energy here and there, but I would also be losing. If I live long enough, there will come a day when I am physically unable to open a manual garage door, or carry a fifty pound bag. The truth is: If I set about to reduce all the friction in my life, that day will come sooner than later.
Muscles are funny things. They are always increasing or decreasing. Do nothing and you will lose muscle. It requires a certain amount of work to maintain what you have. If you want to increase them, it’s going to take more work. You guessed it, muscles need resistance to grow. Spiritual growth is very similar.
Hebrews 5 mentions some folk who had sufficient time that they should have grown and become stronger. Instead, they were weak.
For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. ~ Hebrews 5:12-14
The Word says they were “unskilfull” as opposed to those who were mature. How had they matured? The writer says it was “by reason of use.” The use is of the Word. So by using the Word skilfully, they had their senses exercised and as a result could “discern both good and evil.”
It takes work to get that point. It takes work to use the Word, exercise our senses, and discern good and evil. We should not expect it to be easy, nor should we look for ways to reduce the friction. Keep lifting, tugging, pulling, carrying, and straining and you will become stronger. Be glad for the struggle for you are profiting greatly from it.