Chansin Esparza: Breastfeeding and Spiritual Gifts

“He’s so big!”
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        It’s the constant refrain of my life. Every time I go to worship, the grocery store, a friend’s house – wherever – that’s what people exclaim about my five-month-old baby.  Ever since his two-month pediatrician appointment, my baby has been off-the-charts tall.
 
      Or …. long. He is off-the-charts long. Babies are long – not tall – because they cannot stand up. It’s been a little awkward as my pediatrician, on multiple visits, has asked me to consider donating breastmilk to the milk bank because he assumes that with such a fast-growing baby, I must have extra-good milk. 
       I blame the baby, not my milk. He had a huge appetite, right from the start! In the early weeks, it felt like the only thing I ever did was breastfeed him. Maybe most babies are big eaters like him. But my husband warns me that if our son is anything like he was, then when our boy hits the teen years it will again feel like all I ever do is feed him. 
      Now that my baby is no longer a newborn, the experience of breastfeeding is more efficient and less painful (thank God!). Since he’s not feeding all the time, I let my mind go to other things once in a while. I occasionally forget about his reoccurring hunger.
      So sometimes he gets fussy, and not really thinking about why, I take him up to change his diaper. Maybe this will help, I think.
       But then as I set him on the changing table and place my arms near his body, he leans his little head up … and tries to bite my arm! He’s rooting on whatever part of my body he can get his mouth close to. I’m hungry! he’s telling me. With his open mouth and fierce eyes, I remember. Oh yeah … you need to eat, little one! And I laugh because he’s desperately grabbing at my arm and trying to put his cute mouth on it. 
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      If I’m being cynical, it can seem like the baby just wants to use me. I’m a means to an end: his full tummy. But it dawned on me that the milk that he is trying to get access to … is not really mine. It’s his. God put that milk inside me for his sake. I don’t need it. It’s a gift from God given to my baby through me. I’m the conduit for delivering the nourishment. 
And that makes me think of the Church. 
      All of us have gifts that God put inside us for the sake of others. We are conduits for delivering what is needed to the people God has brought into our lives. We have gifts of our time and attention and love and resources. And we have spiritual gifts. The purpose of spiritual gifts is to build up the Church. God gave them to us for the sole purpose of doing good in the world. They’re useless if we keep it to ourselves, just like I’d have no use for breastmilk if it wasn’t for my baby. 
      I currently serve a church of people who have a variety of gifts and use them for the sake of others. For example, we have a creative arts camp that we put on for kids at a nearby housing project. In order to bring the love of Jesus to those kids through a fun, safe, organized, and effective camp experience, it takes all kinds of gifted people. A few of them are…
  • The gift of Administration – Martha patiently registered the children who didn’t know how to spell and parents who knew little English.
  • The gift of Evangelist – Jason walked around the apartments, looking for kids and encouraging them to come to the camp. 
  • The gift of Leadership – Pam planned the activities and coordinated volunteers, calling the shots as the day went on.
  • The gift of Serving – Vanessa poured drinks and helped the kids with their crafts. 
  • The gift of Encouragement – Jan spoke positive words to the kids about their artistic abilities and encouragement to the adults for their interactions with the kids. 
  • The gift of Mercy – Lauren remembered the names and stories of the kids from the housing project whose needs are hard to comprehend.
  • The gift of Giving – Stephanie brought supplies and offered her church shirt to me when she learned I didn’t have one.
  • The gift of Teaching – Sarajane taught the children dance moves and instructed them through the bubbles and piñata activities. 
  • The gift of Faith – Val believed in the entire process and expected God to make it successful, even before we began. 
      In Christ, we are one body. The parts of a body need the other parts in order to survive. Just like my baby gets hungry and looks to me for what he needs, we in the Church are at a loss and in need of the gifts that are in our Christian brothers and sisters. 
      God made you the way you are – not just for your sake, but for the sake of others. How are you giving away your gifts to those who are meant to receive them? 
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Chansin Esparza is an Associate Pastor at Life In The City in Austin, Texas. Her husband, Jason, serves the church as well. Their son was born in January 2016. She blogs at ChansinEsparza.com.

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