Benjamin Button Meets Jesus

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story that was adapted into a film in 2008, Benjamin Button ages backward. He was born as an old man and as he ages he actually becomes younger.

That’s a picture of the Christian life that’s been really helpful for me lately. In the Christian life the more a person matures the more child like they act. I know that’s counter intuitive and makes so little sense that you’re probably tempted to not read the rest of this short post. We equate maturity with independence and self sufficiency. While that is certainly true in a lot of areas of life, it is absolutely false when it comes to spiritual maturity. As we mature in Christ we recognize our helplessness.

When a person first becomes a Christian he usually still has a lot of self confidence and is inclined to rely on his own wisdom, goodness, and power. But as you grow in your faith self reliance is slowly replaced by God reliance and self confidence is slowly replaced with “boasting in my weaknesses.” You begin to see that you don’t have the power to do anything that’s really important. You’re helpless to accomplish anything that’s spiritual or eternal. That’s why it is right to say that as a Christian you age backwards–the older (or more mature) you get the more helpless or child like you become.

Would it shock you to learn that the most helpless and child like person in the Bible is Jesus? Jesus says, “By myself I can do nothing.” If growing as a Christian means becoming more like Jesus (Romans 8:29), then I need to learn to say and believe that by myself I can do nothing. Jesus tells us pretty clearly that that that’s the case: “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

In his excellent book, The Praying Life, Paul Miller says that the we will pray when we see that we are helpless. When I sense that I can’t do life on my own, I pray. When I become wary of my own heart, I pray. When I get how impossible parenting is, I pray.

Years of trying to be more dedicated and disciplined in prayer never worked for me. Meditating on John 5:19, 30; 15:5 has helped me see my helplessness and call out to God in prayer.

So do mature Christians pray more? Sure. But it isn’t because they are stronger but because they realize how weak they are.

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