The Starfish that never grows up

XYLOPLAX. Yep, that’s what it’s called…

It’s an echinoderm.  That means it’s classified with other ocean-dwelling organisms like star fish, sea lilies, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, and such like. Do a Google search.

Xyloplax (“xylos” means wood and “plax” means plate) was first collected in 1986 on wood in the extreme depths of the Pacific.

The creature is disk-shaped and lacks the “arms” you would typically find on a starfish. It is very tiny. Think millimeters.

It has tube feet or suckers around the circumference of its body. Marine biologists tell us that these tube feet are used for respiration, locomotion, as well as holding on to stuff.  (Suddenly I’m thinking of that clear, gummy thing that holds my Garmin to the front of my car’s windshield.)

It has virtually no gut. It’s body is essentially one big umbrella of plates, spines, and tissue which holds it all together.

But the real oddity of Xyloplax is…are you ready for this? It never fully grows up.  It never matures like its other ocean-dwelling cousins. It stays stuck in the juvenile phase of a typical life-cycle.

I have to tell you that I find it difficult to get my brain around Xyloplax. How can something stay a baby? And how can a creature which remains in its infancy breed other infants?  Babies don’t produce more babies; adults do.

The Hebrew writer struggled with the same dilemma nearly twenty centuries ago. He asked, “How can folks, who have put on Christ, remain as spiritual infants?”

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food” (Hebrews 5.12).

The very nature of Christianity is to grow, mature, and develop in the faith (cf. 1 Peter 2.2; 1 Corinthians 3.2; Romans 7.4).  It can’t stay status quo; it’s not meant to remain static.

Dear Christian, is it possible to track your spiritual development over recent months and years? Are you really growing in the Lord? Do you spend more time delving into the treasures of the Word? Are you exercising your faith? Have you ever had a part in leading another to Jesus?

Xyloplast can be found in the ocean, but it shouldn’t be found in the church

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