I’m not a mom, so, stop me if I’m wrong, but I’m guessing that maybe sometimes it’s hard to see changing diapers as discipleship.
I work for a church. I run a program that develops women. I have weekly appointments to counsel women and I teach classes about the gospel. It’s easy for me to see ‘discipleship’ stamped on my day.
But what is discipleship, really? It’s meeting someone where they are and helping them conform more fully to the truths of God revealed in Christ. And if that’s true, there are some crazy things you should know about the human brain that might change how you view diaper changing.
DISCIPLESHIP IS ABOUT MEANING MAKING
You mind has been designed to constantly make meaning. When you have an experience your mind starts to try to figure out what happened. It latches on to an explanation and together that experience and explanation create a meaning.
Experience:I am sad. Explanation: Why am I sad? Because I am alone. Meaning: Being alone is sad.
Discipleship is about new meaning making. It’s about undoing damaging and faulty neurological pathways that have been formed based on lies, and it’s about creating new pathways based on truth. It’s about a mind that is filled with meanings that conform to the scriptures and not the world.
MEANING MAKING IS NOT DEPENDENT ON LANGUAGE
Meaning making does not begin when language begins. Up to 80% of our communication is non-verbal. That means when you’re looking at your newborn infant thinking of how you can communicate the gospel, and I’m looking at a gal crying in my office wondering how I can communicate the gospel – you and I have access to 80% of the same tools.
MEANING MAKING HAPPENS MORE IN CHILDREN THAN ADULTS
Meaning making is easier, not harder, with children. That new born infant looking at you out of her little swing is meaning making more than you could ever comprehend. Her brain is a meaning-making MACHINE. She’s learning and absorbing and making neurological pathways that will stay with her for the rest of her life.
Right now – as an INFANT – through healthy nonverbal communication – she’s learning that she is made to be dependent. She’s learning that when she’s hurting, she should cry out and someone will help her. She’s learning that she is needy and weak. She’s learning her emotions are valuable opportunities to relate and connect.
That sounds like how I spend my day as well. Helping women believe that they are dependent; helping them look to God to provide and stop trying to provide for themselves. Do you know how much of our time in counseling is spent convincing folks that Jesus wants to hear them when they cry, that He want to help? That He’s not impatient? That He loves hearing their pains and that He wants to connect with them through their feelings?
But the woman sitting across from me has formed neurological pathways long ago. So a new explanation isn’t going to be strong enough to override her belief system. Long ago she learned that when you cry, no one comes. When you feel needy, no one cares.
Now, the Spirit will change that. He will. But He will do it through the time consuming process of transforming her mind. He will help her to mediate on His promises until new meaning is created. And then He will have her set her mind on that that same meaning over and over again until it transforms her mind to a new way of believing. It is the slow process of sanctification; the fruit of discipleship.
It’s the same role you have before you today. The only difference is, while the brain in my office is filled with muddled meanings and defended by a million barricades, the brain in that bouncer across from you is wide open and desperate for input. Your child wakes up each day desperate for someone to help make meaning out of his or her sensations and experiences. Your child is begging for truth to be explained to them through non-verbal communication.
When you change your baby’s diaper, think of the meaning you are helping make: I am a creature that makes a mess. I am unable to clean that mess. I cry out when I sense that mess. The person I am connected to comes to me. And they clean the mess. They make me clean.
Guys. God does not make up things like dirty diapers cause He’s into manual labor. He is obsessed with metaphors of His great glorious Gospel and He is obsessed with us experiencing His great gospel at every turn, so that we can really truly live it out.
He is in the business of redeeming the world through discipleship: through people who will help make true meaning for one another. And He is giving you that opportunity from the moment your child is born. You get to choose what you disciple, what you teach in that moment. Will you teach your child that dependency is healthy, or a weakness? Will you teach them to communicate their need, or hide it? Will you teach them that cleaning them is a blessing to their heavenly father, or a burden?
When you smell that dirty diaper, don’t let Satan deceive you. Don’t let him convince you that it’s meaningless, or even that it’s just for your sanctification. Hear the call to action: It’s time to preach God’s gospel to this child again. Speak it over them with loving hands and steady patience. Sing the song of our great God and make meaning for them out of the mess.