My son just turned one
And as Mom, I reserve the right to say he should sleep through the night; he should stop nursing. This is my motherly preference, and I was ready to be done after a year. However, my twelve-month-old had other plans.
I skip a feeding in the morning and give him breakfast instead–he wakes up for an extra feeding each night. This has been an ongoing battle for seven weeks (when I realized that he wasn’t going to be ready to wean at a year old) and suddenly I’m thinking of not only my son and his physical nourishment, but of all of humanity, and our spiritual nourishment.
A transcending example of nourishment
We know from historical accounts as well as archaeological finds that breastfeeding was common and necessary as early as creation. There are also references to wet nursing in the Bible (Pharaoh’s daughter and Moses is one example). At some point between 2000 BC and modernday, breastfeeding an infant went from a necessity to a preference. At some point the use of wet nurses dwindled and mothers substituted human breast milk for animal milk.
Why did they do this? If humans are designed to drink human milk, then why would these mothers substitute with something different?
I think that mothers through the ages knew about their children then, what Paul describes in 1 Corinthians. There is a difference between milk (infant nourishment) and meat (food). The babies weren’t ready for ‘meat’ so they were given ‘milk’ in whatever variety. The people in Corinth weren’t ready for the deep truths of Christianity, but needed the building blocks for growth–the milk.
A closer look at what we eat
In recent years extensive studies have been done about health, what we’re eating, and how it’s affecting our bodies and health. Many of these studies are showing that the consumption of milk after a certain age (weaning) is detrimental to our health and unnatural. When we stop drinking human milk and begin drinking and eating products made from other animals, our bodies have to change to digest it, and use the nutrients. The composition of cow’s milk is different than that of human milk. So, decades, even centuries ago, when mother’s began to substitute breastmilk with animal milk, they thought they were just keeping their children healthy, when actually the high concentration of dairy in our diet is more harmful than helpful. While this wasn’t evident at the time, we now can see how our food affects our health in a very powerful way. Perhaps this is why Paul uses this illustration. There is nothing that so affects our health as what we put into our bodies. In the same way, nothing affects our spiritual health like what we put into our minds.
Substitute = Same
Throughout history wet nurses were used to substitute the mother’s milk in circumstances where the mother couldn’t feed her babies. Because of the great importance of nourishing the babies, wet nurses were actually highly esteemed in Biblical culture. However, when easier forms of nourishment entered the scene, the wet nurses grew extinct. The problem with this is that the substitution for the human milk was not the same. Humans don’t naturally produce the enzymes to digest cow’s milk. The cow’s milk has extra fat in it, and lacks the immunities that human milk passes to the children. While it does nourish children in their infancy, it can cause problems in overall health when it’s time to eat the ‘meat’.
For this reason it is vital that we use the original nourishment, and no substitution. Paul says in 1 Corinthians “Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly–mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.” It is essential for infants to have their mother’s milk, and have a lot of it. Just as we can’t change the milk, and we can’t feed them meat too soon, we can’t withhold the nourishment either, nor can we change it. When my baby wakes up four times per night to eat, I feed him.
The plight of the Bible worker
Mrs. White says “But let laborers have discretion and not give strong meat to those who are babes; feed them with the sincere milk of the Word. In no case mingle your own spirit and ideas with the truth and cover up the precepts of God by traditions or suppositions. Let the people have the truth as it is in Jesus” (Evanglism 252.1). Just as it isn’t healthy for our bodies to substitute human milk with that of other animals, it is unhealthy for our spiritual bodies to substitute Bible truth with our “own spirit and ideas”. Likewise there is no reason to go back to drinking milk once we are nourished by ‘meat’. “There is no need of milk after souls are convinced of the truth. As soon as the conviction of truth is yielded to and the heart willing, the truth should have its effect, the truth will work like leaven, and purify and purge away the passions of the natural heart. It is a disgrace for those who have been in the truth for years to talk of feeding souls who have been months in the truth, upon milk” (Manuscript Release 33.4).
As ministers of the Gospel, not only do we have to see to it that we are receiving adequate ‘nutrition’ through The Word. We also have to be certain that we aren’t doing others a disservice by continually feeding them the ‘milk’ after they have outgrown it.
My son just turned one
And I’m not sure I need to be so concerned with weaning him. God created him a certain way–to need certain nutrients and certain comforts. While I have some control of this process, I chose in the beginning to provide for his nourishment myself (breastfeeding), thus I need to continue until he is ready to move on to meat (food). When we choose to teach people the truth of God’s Word, we have to also give them time to ‘digest’ it and accept it, but while we wait, we cannot stop feeding them, and we cannot stop pushing them to grow.
In today’s world it is essentially taboo to breastfeed. Even in penning this post I am reluctant to use certain words or descriptions, afraid of the political correctness and the toes I may step on. Taboo or not, though, Paul used an example that essentially transcends the ages. His instructions are extremely relatable, and will remain so, because infants will always need nourishment, and so too will we.