by Paul Michael Garrison
This article first appeared in FrontLine • May/June 2004. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.
When I was eight years old, my little brother was born. At first, he proved to be quite a disappointment. After all, he was too little to play with or to do much of anything interesting, at least to an eight-yearold. But slowly I was allowed to interact with him in a more adult role—for example, by holding him, feeding him, and even changing his diapers.
In feeding my baby brother, I learned what anyone who has tried to feed a baby has learned: a baby cannot be fed when his mouth is closed. And closing their mouths is something that babies will typically do when you are trying to feed them. You can push and smear, but until the mouth is open, no food is going in. So, in an attempt to entice that little one to eat, we try games. One game involves making wide sweeps with our arms as we pretend that an airplane is coming into the hangar. Or we sputter like a motorboat in hopes that the kid will open his mouth long enough for us to shove some food in.
Normally, for us adults, keeping our mouths shut is harder than keeping them open.
Along with many others, that’s a problem I personally have experienced. We open our mouths freely and let out all sorts of comments that we shouldn’t. In this sense, we would do well to keep our mouths shut more frequently. However, spiritually, we are to keep our mouths open. “I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it” (Ps. 81:10).
Like a baby that closes his mouth to food, we adult believers often close our mouths to the spiritual nourishment God would give us. However, we need to be open to anything the Lord would send our way. By keeping our “mouths closed,” we rob ourselves of spiritual blessings and growth.
A baby does not realize that the one feeding him is acting in his best interest. He knows only what he wants, and at times he does not want to eat. Likewise, we adults do not always see what is in our best interest. Instead, we see only what we want or what seems tantalizing to us. However, we would do well to remember that God has our best interest in mind, and He knows what spiritual nourishment we need.
When we as parents (or an older sibling) receive a closed mouth approach from the not-so hungry baby, we often resort to the games mentioned above. Sometimes this works; sometimes it doesn’t. However, God doesn’t play games with us. When we refuse to open our mouth and take in His truths, He may pull back the spiritual spoon and leave it there, with no funny motorboat noises or airplane landings to entice us. Rather, He looks us straight in the eyes and gives us a firm warning: “Open your mouth.” If we don’t, what comes next is less pleasant.
Sometimes, in order for a baby to be fed, his mouth has to be pried open. This not a pleasant experience for the one being fed, nor for the one doing the feeding. Similarly, God must pry our mouths open to give us what we need. Divine chastening is one successful mouth opener. Deuteronomy 8:5 warns, “As a man chasteneth his son, so the LORD thy God chasteneth thee.” God chastens us until we are ready to be fed.
It does not take supreme powers of logic or deduction to realize that it is much better to receive nourishment willingly than to be fed by force. But somehow we forget that fact, and we exhibit the same stubborn will of the baby who refuses to be fed. Open widely to the blessings and tests that the Lord has for you!
At the time of original publication, Paul Michael Garrison was a graduate student at Bob Jones University.