If you’ve ever spent any time in the church nursery you’ve heard the words, “That’s mine!” and “Gimme!” fly out of more than a few cute little mouths. And quite honestly, it doesn’t bother you. You may not condone it. You’ll try to train against it, but it’s certainly not surprising. It’s all part of a child’s normal development as they go from a self-centered toddler to a well-adjusted, contributing adult.
At least, that’s the goal. We’re not going to talk about those members of our society who fall through the cracks and remain in that preschool classroom indefinitely.
According to Bill Hull, author of Jesus Christ Disciple Maker, the believer goes through a similar progression. We start with the “come and see” phase, inch towards the “come follow Me” stage and, hopefully, reach God’s ultimate goal–the “come and be with Me” stage.
Notice this progression in Jacob’s life. (Genesis 27-Genesis 32)
At first, Jacob appeared to have a “why should I care” attitude. God was a word used when it served his purposes, but nothing more.
In Genesis 27:20, Jacob acknowledged God, but didn’t own Him as his own. Responding to a question posed by his father Isaac, he said, “The Lord your God gave me success.”
Apparently, Jacob knew of God. Likely Isaac had spoken of Him on more than one occasion. Perhaps he’d even retold the time when God saved his life. And yet, it appears Jacob never gave Isaac’s God more than a passing thought. God was the God of his father. And when it suited him–like when he was trying to cover up his deceitful plan–he referenced God. But He didn’t seek after God or lay his life in God’s hands. (Curious as to the rest of the story? Read it here.)
I’d call this the infant stage. I don’t even think he’s reached the “come and see” phase. His curiosity isn’t even piqued–he’s way more focused on his sin at this point. Funny how sin has a way of blinding us to the things of God.
Many stay here, never moving forward. They’re stuck in the, “That’s great for you, but what’s in it for me?” stage, halting those potentially faith-building questions before they have a chance to arise. Using Christianity when it suits them, like when there’s a Christmas sale or office party, without ever tapping into its life-changing power.
Luckily, God doesn’t leave us in infancy forever. He’s focused on growth and a steady forward, or shall I say, upward, progression. Within a very short time, Jacob was forced out of his home and into the unknown. God placed Jacob in a place where he would hear Him–and need Him. A temporary wilderness, I suppose.
In Genesis chapter 27, Jacob’s mother told him to flee to Paddan-Aram where his uncle lived. In route, he encountered God. And because humans are dominated by their sinful, prideful, gimme nature, his first tentative steps were a tad bit selfish. To flip Hull’s “come and see” stage on it’s head, I’ll term this the “prove yourself to me, gimme” stage.
Notice what Jacob said in Genesis 28:20-22 “ Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the LORD will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”
When I first read this I was like, “Cool. So Jacob gave his life to God.” But then I noticed all the “if, then” statements.
Jacob offered conditional obedience. “If you bless me, I’ll obey you.”
Bill Hull would probably call this the “come and see” phase–the point in a seekers life where God shows up again and again, demonstrating His love and power.
I call it the “gimme stage”. The terrible twos. Which are fine when you’re two, but eventually, you’ve got to move past the gimme’s to the “you got me’s” (Unless you want to remain a toddler forever, which, some do.) But the gimme stage is one-sided, and although it might appear pleasant for awhile, it fails to supply what we need most–intimacy.
For the next 20 years, God “courted” Jacob. He blessed him, protected him from his uncles malicious tactics, and revealed His power and might. (If you want to read the whole story, go here.)
In Genesis 32, it appears that Jacob finally reached maturity. (Not perfection, mind you, but maturity.)
He moved past the gimmes to the “you got me’s.
Genesis 32:22-26 ” That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
The Slattery translation? (With the help of a few commentaries I read.) “I cannot go on without you.”
What stage are you in? Are you in the “gimmes” or the “you can have me’s”? Has God become your Cosmic Genie or your dearest friend?
To be honest, I vacillate between the two. I imagine this will be a continual battle, one that requires frequent self-analyzation. Today? As I write this, I’m in the “you can have me.” Later, when my day spirals and that to-do list I thought I’d stay on top of gets the best of me, I’ll likely slide back into the terrible twos, but luckily God continues to nudge me forward.
Love this song. I know I’ve posted it before, but it’s so true. After all Christ has done for us, there is no room for casual Christianity or intermittent obedience.