Spiritual Nursing


The process of being made broken bread and poured-out wine means that you have to be the nourishment for other souls until they learn to feed on God. They must drain you to the dregs. Be careful that you get your supply, or before long you will be utterly exhausted. Before other souls learn to draw on the life of the Lord Jesus direct, they have to draw on it through you; you have to be literally ‘sucked’, until they learn to take their nourishment from God.

I know that I have read this many times in the past since I have been reading this devotional book for quite a number of years myself. Yet the powerful message in today's reading seems to elude me and escape my attention much of the time. It is a perspective that I need to remember, especially when I am feeling down and discouraged after being used to minister to others.

It is very consistent though with my own experience and sense of deep need for connecting strongly with God early each morning. I always feel a sense of danger and vulnerable spiritual weakness if I do not have an assurance each day from personal, intimate time with God and sense that His presence will go with me and His Spirit will be in me for the rest of the day. I know that it is vital that I must be fed regularly and sufficiently or I will quickly run out of energy and become vulnerable to the temptations and assaults of the enemy and may dishonor my best Friend and my Savior.

But this concept of becoming the very source of nourishment for other people who are struggling to perceive God properly and connect more with Him, desiring to grow more into becoming real Christians themselves, is one that I don't often consider. I know how much I tend to crave having connections with other humans to mentor me, to show me what life looks like with Jesus living inside, to give me right-brain examples in real-life of what it means to act like myself as a child of God. I know how much this means to me and I realize that the same must be true for others.

That is why, as a maturing Christian, I must be available for God to use as a mentor for others as they seek to grow into fuller dependence on Jesus in their own relationship with Him. They simply don't know what that looks like or feels like yet or what to do to encourage that sort of thinking and feeling in their own experience. They may hear me talking about the increasing joys of connecting with God in His Word or listening to the Spirit speak to me in various ways and they feel puzzled as to the literal and practical means of how to get there from where they currently live. I know that feeling myself – I sense it every time I encounter a Christian more mature than me who has a living connection with God and lives a life of exciting adventures in dependence on Him. I want to pick their brains, to live under their shadow, to watch in flesh and blood what it really looks like in daily interactions with life what it must feel like to live a life of real faith and joy and being led by the Spirit.

According to what Chambers says in this passage, that can have the effect of draining a person after awhile. But contrary to what we might first think, that is not necessarily a bad thing. It is very much like raising children. We don't usually view raising children into maturity something to be avoided. It is a glorious and rewarding calling to be a parent – at least if a person is mature enough and strong enough themselves to be ready for such a thing. But it can also be very draining, so a parent has to be wise enough to know that they must take care of their own health if they are going to have the stamina to be there and provide all the things that their children depend on them for.

I especially like the analogy that Chamber's uses here of drawing on nourishment from someone like a baby depends on its mother's breast for vital nourishment both physically and emotionally when they need it most. Drinking milk from a mother's breast is not only to receive food but has a great deal to do with the psychological and emotional development of the child that leaves a lasting imprint on how all of their relationships will develop for the rest of their life. The deep and intense emotional bonds that need to be formed between a loving mother and her nursing baby have powerful effects on the child's ability to interact in caring and loving ways to other important relationships when they grow older and especially when they start forming close bonds that culminate in marriage later in life. A lack of proper bonding with a good mother in early childhood is a precursor to all sorts of malfunctions in other relationships for many years to come.

Bonding is one of the most important but possibly least appreciated aspects of raising children into healthy maturity. And the same is true for raising people into spiritual maturity. It is important to be aware of the needs of each person who is very much like a little child, incapable of finding sufficient nourishment from feasting on God's Word and receiving spiritual nourishment directly for themselves as they first begin their growth journey into maturity. They need significant mentors and spiritual nurses in their lives to nourish them with concentrated spiritual life just as a mother supplies vital nutrition, immunities and emotional connections to a young child during nursing.

But just as a mother must pay attention to her own diet even more carefully while nursing than at other times and must be sure that her own body is replenished with vital nutrition and exercise, so too must spiritual 'parents' be sure that they don't allow themselves to be depleted too much by those who are depending on them for spiritual food until these children are old enough to learn to eat from the table and even fix their own meals later on. And the physical ages of spiritual 'parents' and 'children' can be surprisingly different than their spiritual maturity age relative to each other. This can be a real source of confusion if one is not aware of this discrepancy.

This whole concept is actually embedded in the very name of one of the people that Paul mentored in his ministry. The very name Titus literally means 'nurse' in the idea of nursing someone with nutrition like a mother would nurse a child. When this is understood, then the way that Paul mentored people like Titus and Timothy can help us better understand the role of spiritual nurse-maids or mothers which may be an almost forgotten but very important role in the body of Christ today.

Evidently there is nothing wrong with the spiritual feeding of others when circumstances warrant it. I have struggled with this issue for many years because of the seeming contradiction between leaning on others for spiritual and emotional input and the insistence by many that we should only depend on God for our spiritual nourishment. Put into this context it makes a lot more sense now. When a person is immature in any area of their life they need others to help them grasp what may be even fundamental to someone who is farther along in their relationship with God. We must learn when to nurse and trust someone to help us know God better and when it is time to begin to access food more directly for ourselves as we grow stronger and come ever closer to the real Source of all life and joy.

Continually go back to the foundation of your affections and recollect where the source of power is. You have no right to say—‘Oh Lord, I am so exhausted.’ He saved and sanctified you in order to exhaust you. Be exhausted for God, but remember that your supply comes from Him. “All my fresh springs shall be in Thee.” (excerpts from My Utmost for His Highest: February 9)

Comments

  1. I think this is why the Bible tells us to help bear one another's burdens, because we were created with the need and desire to interact with others (not just with God), and to give and receive on a consistent basis. If we live only to and for ourselves we lose all objectivity, and we receive nothing fresh from others on which to nourish our own souls.

    Often it's only through dealing with the flaws and weaknesses of others that we gain spiritual discernment to see how we must appear at times to God: broken, needy stumble-bums who are still in the process of becoming that for which we were created.

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