I have to confess that I used to suffer from a very significant disease. You might not have noticed it by looking at me, but if you had lived with me for awhile you probably would have. It has a very special name, and it’s called grandparent-deprivation syndrome. Some of you probably have it too. That is when you have adult children who are married, but you don’t have grandchildren. For a number of years my wife and I were in this condition. It can be quite serious.
One day I was returning home from Florence, Italy, and took a short hop to Frankfurt, Germany. There I got on a 12-hour flight to Los Angeles and sat down in an aisle seat in the center block of seats on a 747. A short while later I saw an older gentleman coming up the aisle, holding the hands of a 2-year old blonde girl who wsa walking in front of him. They came up the aisle, stopped right next to me, and he said, “Sir, you just have won the prize! You get to sit with this young lady for the next 12 hours.” I rather suspect he was trying to deflect a negative reaction, but all I could think of to respond was to rub my hands together and say, “Oh goody!” The whole trip the two of us were making up games and doing all sorts of fun things. It was at that moment that I realized I was suffering from Grandparent Deprivation Syndrome (GDS). And there was only one possible cure.
Knowing this the excitement was great in our home a couple of years ago. We got a call from our oldest daughter asking if we could connect on Skype that night, She said she had a very important announcement. I thought to myself, “I know what this announcement is! She’s going to have a baby, awesome!” As the day went on my wife and I got more and more excited. Then the Skype call came through. Our daughter and her husband were there and she said, “Are you ready for the announcement?” I said yes! And she said, “I was just awarded my counseling license!” Yeah, awesome. I tried to look excited.
Around a year ago, however, we had another Skype call and this time it was the announcement we were waiting for. My daughter and her husband were going to have a baby! That announcement changed our lives. My wife started going on the internet every day to relearn the whole process and see what size the baby must be at each stage. It was all pretty exciting stuff! I was suddenly seeking out other grandparents and discussing their annoying pictures at great length. Everything was changing. Then on April 6, 2014, the baby was born. Six pounds nine ounces and twenty and a half inches long. His name is Julien Johann Clouzet.
But why am I telling you all this, beside the fact that I am now one of those annoying grandparents myself? There is an important spiritual lesson in all this. While Julien was born at a certain size he was not at that size three months before. And he has not stayed that size in the days and weeks afterward. He is eating and eating and growing an growing (great diet program for mom!). Every day he is a little bit bigger. Every week there are features there that were not there before. When it comes to babies, both before and after they are born, it’s all about growth, it’s all about development.
You see, growth is wired into everything in life. If a plant or a creature is alive and healthy, it’s going to grow in some way. It is the same way with spiritual life. In Mark 4:26-28 (NIV) Jesus told a parable. It’s unique to Mark. He said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain– first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.” It doesn’t take long to figure out that Jesus isn’t telling this story so we can know more about plants.
Notice a few things here. First there’s development. A healthy person never stays in the same place. A healthy person is always growing in some way. If they are no longer growing physically then they are growing mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. When it comes to spiritual things (the kingdom of God) there is growth, development, and change. The parable tells us that spiritual life is developmental, but there is a second piece to it. Spiritual growth is does not arise from human effort. You don’t grow either physically or spiritually by human effort. My daughter today is not working very hard to make the baby grow. She is working very hard to allow the baby to grow (by feeding and caring for its heeds), but the growth itself is actually a miracle, just as it was when Julien was a fetus. You can’t grow spiritually by trying to. When spiritual growth comes, it is always a miracle.