As some of you may know, the last few months have been a bit of a wild ride for our family. Both my wife and my son have been facing some health battles that have lead us to many doctors looking for answers. Going from doctor to doctor had lead us to some answers, but each answer brought about more questions. This last week we had an appointment for my son at the GI specialist at Children’s Hospital Colorado to try and diagnose what exactly is the cause of his problems. Finally we have found a doctor that is doing what it takes to fix the problem! We were so relieved to have finally received some real answers. His doctor gave him a “Failure to Thrive” diagnosis which was caused by the digestive struggles he has had ever since he was hospitalized at 9 months old with an osteomyelitis in his leg. Now that we know what we’re dealing with the process has begun in his healing and recovery. After leaving the appointment Thursday, I was curious to know more about this condition. So I Googled “Failure to Thrive” and read up a little on what we were facing in his recovery. I read several articles on the condition and found something quite interesting about how this diagnosis rings true with many of our spiritual lives.
Most diagnoses of failure to thrive are made in infants and toddlers in the first few years of life — a crucial period of physical and mental development. After birth, a child’s brain grows as much in the first year as it will grow during the rest of life. Poor nutrition during this period can have permanent negative effects on mental development.
Most babies double their birth weight by 4 months and triple it by age 1, but kids with failure to thrive often don’t meet those milestones. Sometimes, a child who starts out “plump” and who shows signs of growing well can begin to fall off in weight gain. After a while, linear (height) growth may slow as well.
If the condition progresses, undernourished kids may:
- become disinterested in their surroundings
- avoid eye contact
- become irritable
- not reach developmental milestones like sitting up, walking, and talking at the usual age
After reading about this I couldn’t help to start thinking about the correlation I saw between this condition and many of our lives as Christ followers. I think that many in the church struggle with this very thing in a spiritual sense. I know that I have experienced some of these effects in my personal walk. The thing about “Failure to Thrive” is that it is a diagnosis of the symptoms but can have many different causes. In all of our lives we can sometimes feel like we are experiencing these very symptoms. As I’ve had experience in the church over the last 5 years I’ve met many people who have become disinterested in their current state. People at this stage can often times become irritable and easily offended. They have trouble facing up to the community that they have planted themselves in and can easily become disenfranchised and isolated not wanting to “make eye contact” with the very ones who they said would be their support structure.
So what does it look like for us to THRIVE as “children of God”? And how do we get past our failure to thrive as members of God’s family. For my son, his journey will be undergoing some uncomfortable care. We’ve had to take him regularly to the hospital where he has to give blood and undergo tests to find the root problem. This is an uncomfortable process and one that requires him (and us) trusting the doctors and nurses who are giving his care. He is also going on a diet. Not the kind of diet half of America is on to lose a few pounds but one specifically crafted to take on as many calories as possible so that he can gain weight and get the nutrition he needs. This is also an uncomfortable process because when he is often sick he is not pumped about eating ANYTHING!
WOW. The parallel is so eye opening for me! How do we begin to THRIVE again in our lives as Christians? We commit ourselves to community. Which is an uncomfortable position meaning we must “do things we don’t like doing”. Just as Zeke hates to give blood and undergo tests, we must GIVE up things we are holding on to. Things that make us feel safe and comfortable but keep us from undergoing the TESTING God desires us to go through. Realizing that the test will lead to understanding and understanding will lead us to our cure. We must trust those around us who we’ve asked for CARE knowing that we NEED others even when our feelings tell us that we know best. And lastly we must adjust our diet! Realizing that our dissolution comes from not filling ourselves with the spiritual FOOD we have needed. We must become fiercely committed to eating up his word and filling ourselves through time in prayer. If we refuse to “eat” we will continue to feel malnourished and unhappy with our condition. Delving into the word doesn’t always make us “feel good” right away but if we understand the need to eat we will see ourselves once again be able to THRIVE! Let’s end the cycle of underdeveloped Christ followers and this week begin to thrive again as believers! I believe that when we do this as a church we will see it meet the milestones we set out for and most likely we’ll see our churches grow FAR beyond what we would have ever imagined!