Everyone knows what beauties cardinals are. The males range from bright fire engine to deep cherry red, a rounded breast of the same color, with a black Zorro mask, orange-red bill, and a full, high crest. Even the more muted females are a smooth olive green to buff brown with fringes of red on their wings and tails, full crests, plus the same orangy bill and a bit of a black mask. But the adolescents? Can a bird be called "gawky?" The colors range from scruffy gray to a spotty brown, with remnants of dirty-white baby feathers stuck here and there, and an ugly, gray bill. They are usually skinny and their crests either as short as crewcuts or as stringy as a human head of oily hair, and sparse to boot.
They remind me of human teenagers actually—that gangly stage where their legs and arms are too long for their bodies and the most recent growth spurt has left them looking like Elastic Man stretched to his limit. But what happens? You see them five years later and suddenly you have a beautiful young woman standing in front of you, or a handsome young man. That's what happens. And you know what? All those gawky cardinals eventually become just as beautiful as their parents, too. It's perfectly normal.
The same can be true of spiritual growth. Sometimes a new Christian can be an ugly creature. Especially if he has come straight out of the world, rather than growing up among us, he may still be slipping back into bad habits fairly often. His language may slip. His temper may flare in a less than godly way. His choices may be every bit as unwise as they were before his baptism. That's perfectly normal too. Should it stay that way? Absolutely not. "Please be patient with me," should be an early request that grows less and less necessary, rather than something he clings to like ivy on a brick wall.
I have watched the ugliest, gawkiest cardinal grow to be one of the most beautiful birds God made, so perfectly red that as he sits in my dark green jasmine vine he looks like a Christmas card—all that's missing is a little snow.
I have seen new Christians do the same thing, but not until they have gone through that awkward growing up stage, tripping over their own feet and falling flat on their faces more than once. Expect it. Bear with him. Be tolerant of his errors rather than deciding he will never make it. You were once that awkward adolescent Christian yourself.
However, if you are indeed that babe in Christ. Don't use it justify a failure to grow up. Surely you do want to be that beautiful red cardinal someday, and as soon as possible. That won't happen if you are still making excuses five, ten, twenty years down the road. Or even if you make them tomorrow.
…until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children…(Eph 4:13-14).