"Like newborn infants, long for pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation." - 1 Peter 2:2
When I was little, I was taught to achieve salvation by building up a bank account of merit until I'd acquired enough to please God. Later, I was taught to work out my salvation in fear and trembling. There'd be consequences if I didn't do it just right. Then I heard that salvation's a gift, which should've been a relief, but wasn't. If something's really a gift, a giver can withhold it just as easily as bestow it. That worried me.
I was confused. No one ever said what they meant by that weasel word, "salvation," and everybody had conflicting ideas about how you get whatever it is. Then I read the verse cited above. Instead of anxious effort; instead of an iffy gift; instead of the exhausting spiritual aerobics we confess in church every Sunday—falling down, getting up, trying again—this made organic sense to me:
We're infants at God's breasts, helpless at the start. As we're fed the milk of mercy, we grow. As we're held in the arms of the family of disciples, cooed to with songs of faith, read to with stories of Jesus, we grow. As we toddle along the Way and speak our first Word, we grow.
Maturation is not without its pains. And it takes effort—everyone's, since it really does take a village to raise a child. But there comes a day when we stand back and admire, wondering how this graceful thing happened, knowing that we did not make the splendid grown-up, the mature disciple, standing before us, even though in a way we surely did. And for this mystery of growth, we give God all the glory.
Nurse us, Mother God. Set us growing until the day we stand before you in the splendid maturity you nurtured us into, you and the church that forms us in your name.
Mary Luti is Interim Senior Pastor of Wellesley Village Church, Wellesley, Massachusetts.