We have a five-week-old in the house, so we are sleep-deprived and groggy-eyed. We are basketfuls of tiny baby clothes in the laundry room. We are pacifiers everywhere. We are hunger all the time. Between the little guy and me alone, there is always at least one person who wants to be eating.
A few nights ago, while my husband was away at work and some friends were visiting, the baby cried seemingly forever. But he had just eaten. He had a dry diaper too, and it was an hour past his usual bedtime, and this was his angry cry. I knew him well enough already to know he was trying to pull a power play—this mama was determined not to be manipulated, and to help him learn the simple and basic skill of falling asleep instead. Still, it was mind-numbing to sit there, listening to him like that.
I’ve heard it said somewhere that an infant’s cry has a physiological effect on a woman: specifically, it elicits a sense of actual panic in her. I can’t say whether or not that claim is real science, but anecdotally I know it’s true. Those tiny-lung shrieks can fry my nerves like nothing else, and more quickly too.
In my better moments, I like to think this whole cry/response thing is just one more example of God’s brilliant design: take a new mom who’s dog-tired from late-night feedings and physically beat-up from having given birth, and put something in her that makes her willingly rise and plod toward her child, to discover and to give what is needed, if for no other reason than to make the madness stop.
With that in mind, we come to 1 Peter 2, from today’s readings:
Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. (verse 2, ESV)
It occurred to me this week that the milk an infant longs for is directly tied to another being. Babies cannot simply crave the milk they need and then depend on themselves to get it. No, in this scenario, craving a thing is practically the same as craving its source. The baby cries, but there is no nourishment for him unless it is given by another.
The fact goes unemphasized in this passage, but when it comes to spiritual milk, the same underlying truth applies. We egocentric, we results-oriented, we self-sufficient types are prone to focus on our own accomplishments and efforts: the parts we bring to an equation. We crave the spiritual milk, we consume the spiritual milk, we grow up in Christ as a result.
We are lining up to be presented with our applause, our award-sashes, our shiny gold stars.
But let’s not forget that in this metaphor we are infants. In other words, not capable of much beyond basic reflexes.
In other words, there is an ever-giving Source at the beginning, middle, and end of this equation. He deserves the praise. He has already, at the cross, exhausted himself beyond a final breath, to give us what we need for complete forgiveness and lasting joy.
It is our closeness to him, drinking from all he pours out, that changes us. His food is how we are strengthened and how we are matured.
In him we find, for starters: love that is steadfast, truth that’s explosive, justice that captivates, mercy that overflows. We cannot take on qualities like these without absorbing his example of them first. For his is the only accurate example of them. And we cannot expect to have the self-control and behavioral restraint that the rest of 1 Peter 2 talks about, without qualities like these. Again, without his example.
If spiritual milk is what we are to drink, the implication is there. “If indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good”—wanting and needing to grow means wanting and needing, above all else, him.