I am a new mom. My little bundle of joy is now 9 weeks old, and she came three and a half weeks early. I have two sisters who have both had two children, I am involved in a small group and there have been three babies born in that group in the last 10 months. I have a mom and a mother in law and a mentor. And I am from the midwest, so almost all of my friends are married and have a few children. You would think that with that type of community I would have had all of the support and insight needed to go through pregnancy – on top of my doctor’s input.
But yet, I got sick. I try to take care of myself as best I can. I run four to five days a week (I made it up to week 34 running) and I try to eat well. But yet as I went through pregnancy I was terribly worn out. I could not understand how I was such a wimp! Everyone talked about the second trimester energy bump and how fun pregnancy was, but I was just sick and tired all of the time.
As I entered into the third trimester we found out that I had preeclampsia. The doctor ultimately put me on bedrest and planned induction at 37 weeks, but I ended up delivering at 36 1/2. My body was shutting down, the placenta was dying and the baby was at risk – she was not getting nutrients and had not grown in a few weeks. No wonder I was exhausted. The closest anyone came to noticing was my parents. They came into town to visit around 25 weeks and said that I looked bad. Exactly what every pregnant woman wants to hear! I told them that I was just pregnant and thought little of it. I had never been pregnant before, I thought it was normal and that I was the weakest of my friends.
God has given us community for our Spiritual well-being and growth. He has provided us with the local body of believers known as the Church to reach the world with the Gospel, but also to push one another on to maturity and to work together to glorify God and to fight sin. We are all given different gifts and strength and they are given specifically to serve God by serving the Church (1 Cor 12).
“But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
– 1 Cor 12.7
We are commanded to look out for one another and to push one another on to holiness.
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
– Heb 10.23-25
And then we are given some really practical, yet strange sounding applications:
Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children…
Have you not heard that every woman (and man), the moment they lay eyes on their newborn child immediately is overwhelmed by a love they never knew possible? While this may not be the case for every parent who ever lived, it does seem funny that the blanket instruction for women in the church is that we need to be taught how to love our husbands and children.
Or is it?
Our culture is teaching us that love is essentially spoiling and unconditional affirmation, awarding effort instead of achievement and overall narcissism. It takes very little mental effort to realize that we do, indeed, need to be taught how to love. No marriage will survive if two individuals think that the other exists for their pleasure and service. We must all learn how to put others before ourselves and die to ourselves. We also must learn how to discipline when we want to spoil, encourage when we want to excuse and truly love our children by teaching them how to love God and love others.
But these things are not natural. No one naturally dies to himself. Therefore, the wise among us must know how to ask the right questions and diagnose the heart. We need to develop Spiritual doctors among us, and we need to become them ourselves. Only the doctor recognized and diagnosed my preeclampsia because she took my blood pressure, measured the baby, found unhealthy levels of protein in my urine and saw my face. She knew the signs of the illness, she knew the potential consequences of the illness, and she knew how to give both me and the baby the best chance for survival. My parents knew that I looked unwell but were unable to recognize the source of the problem and those who were closest to me who saw me get sicker little by little every day never noticed the problem. Why? Because it was gradual and they did not know the signs to look for or the questions to ask. They are not doctors. We actually do have one doctor in our small group Bible study, but he is not an ob-gyn and and he is not my doctor, so he never ran any tests on me, he never diagnosed the problem.
If we have never learned how to recognize, identify and fight sin in our own lives we are completely unable to help others fight sin. If we have never learned how to die to ourselves and love one another Biblically, we will never be aware when our friends are selfish in their marriages or fail to love others well. We must learn Spiritual maturity from those who have gone before us, apply it in our own lives, and pass it on to our community and others. Paul shows such an example:
“The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
– 2 Tim 2.2
Our goal in learning is to apply truth to our own lives, and to teach it to others in such a way that they will be able to apply and also teach the truth. We must have a multi-generational worldview in our Spiritual maturity and accountability. We must recognize the signs of the sin, ask the right diagnostic questions and then set up a treatment plan to fight it and eradicate it from our lives.
This requires vulnerability. It requires true community. It requires transparency. And it requires a varied level of maturity. Unfortunately, many of our churches are creating pockets of like-minded and Spiritual peers. Small groups are popping up all around the country that are full of really solid and mature Christians, or young and immature Christians. We like people who are like us, and therefore the young adults have their own thing going while the seniors have theirs. The youth are led by those adults who want to relive their glory years of High School or even worse – we train the youth to lead the youth. Yes, there are spiritually adept 16 year olds, but a baby Christian will learn infinitely more from an adult who was successfully fought sin and developed a relationship with God after navigating High School than someone who is in the throws of the same temptations and struggles. This is why older women who have already raised their children are commanded to speak into the lives of women with children. Men who are addicted to porn will find more help with a man who has overcome the same sin than a man who is struggling with the same sin.
So let’s get real. Let’s find those who are further down the path than we and learn from them. Let’s also find those who are just starting down the path and utilize the skills we are learning to teach them. Let’s learn to diagnose our own sin, teach others how to diagnose their sin as well, and walk in community in a way that recognizes the subtle signs of it – because we understand the consequences of it.
“Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”
– John Owen