Side Ponytails, Fat Babies, and Amy Grant
I’m a product of the ’80s. The big bangs, the perm, the legwarmers, the side ponytail, I was as 80s as a girl could be. And as someone who loved Jesus and loved Christian music, to me, Amy Grant was the bomb. I had every album, memorized every song lyric, purchased every VHS music video, and attended every concert my mom would drive me to. If Amy was a musician in this generation, I would surely have some kind of interesting name as her follower – I’d be a Granty, a MyGrant or something cool. I digress. Anyway, a few weeks ago, an Amy Grant song came to mind: “Fat Baby.” Being in my teens when the song came out, I sort of understood the lyrics, but the older I got, the more meaning they held.
He’s just a fat little baby!
Wa, wa, waaaaa…
He wants his bottle, and he don’t mean maybe
He sampled solid foods once or twice
But he says doctrine leaves him cold as ice
If you know the song, you’ll recall it’s about the perpetual infant “Christian”, who takes in spiritual nourishment once a week – enough nourishment to stay alive, but never enough to grow. While there is no shame is starting our spiritual lives as infants (we all start there!), a good mother teaches their infant how to eat solid foods: first spoon-fed, then with the toddler’s own fingers (what a messy stage!), helping develop the coordination to use a spoon, until the child finally cuts up food themselves. A healthy childhood includes learning to feed oneself.
What’s the connection? Some of my first childhood memories were of my mother waking up at 5:30 every morning to read Scripture, work through a Bible study, and pray for our family. While she attended church each week, she admitted it rarely filled her spiritual appetite. So she paid attention to the Spirit and what spiritual topics interested/nourished her at that particular moment rather than being frustrated if the Pastor’s sermon didn’t “move” her; she formed a community with people who ministered and encouraged one another rather than being frustrated if she didn’t feel a “connection” with those in her Sunday School class; she used her own tape deck to listen to musicians that spoke to her soul rather than complaining about the music not “speaking to her,” and so on. She didn’t place her own preferences and expectations on these church-wide events because their function was to appeal to a mass congregation at various spiritual stages with various tastes and preferences. She didn’t forsake attending church, but neither did she depend upon it as the one and only source of nourishment. The Spirit knew her unique calling as well as the unique path to grow and get her there. So she followed Him as He filled in the gaps – always staying spiritually full because she took responsibility for feeding herself; chasing the Spirit for the things that uniquely brought her life and thrilled her soul in Christ. Imagine if everyone in the congregation placed demands on how their spiritual needs should be met – the music needs to speak to my generation, the sermon needs to be a word-by-word exegesis, prayer needs to be longer and more corporate – this would be too heavy a burden for any church to live up to.
So there’s corporate and private worship. There’s corporate and private study. There’s corporate and private prayer. Each serves a purpose and shouldn’t be neglected, but taken together, they offer balance as the private speaks our individualized spiritual language, while the corporate reminds it’s not all about us. And to prevent from getting “fat”, we don’t just constantly intake spiritual food, we exercise our spiritual muscles by serving others. J
~ But for right now, friends, I’m completely frustrated by your unspiritual dealings with each other and with God. You’re acting like infants in relation to Christ, capable of nothing much more than nursing at the breast…As long as you grab for what makes you feel good or makes you look important, are you really much different than a babe at the breast, content only when everything’s going your way?
~ 1 Corinthians 3:1
Kendra Kirby currently serves on staff at Grace Community Church in Noblesville, Indiana, which embraces the artistic community and exclusively relies on its pool of 150 volunteer musicians to reach a congregation of 7,000. Passions of Kendra’s include arranging worship songs with unique and creative vocal lines for the choir, mic’ed vocalists, and worship leader.