I’m always looking for convergences…and I experienced one today. First, Kellie sent me a song to listen to: “You are Worthy” by one of our favorite artists, Will Reagan. One of his lyrics says, “I’m just beginning to love you. I’m just beginning to know you.” Do you relate to that? In my better moments, that’s exactly how I feel! I’ve spent 53 years seeking to know and love God—and I am literally just beginning.
The second event came in re-reading one of my favorite books, Soul Making: The Desert Way of Spirituality. Author Alan Jones tells of his visit to the Coptic monastery of Saint Macarius, founded in AD 360 between Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt. His host Father Jeremiah took delight in sharing food and gifts and a story. Reportedly, one of the young men approached Marcarius back in the day, “Abba, tell us about being a monk.” The aged saint replied, “Ah, I’m not a monk myself, but I have seen them.” To which Father Jeremiah quipped, “I am not yet a Christian, but I have seen them!”
There is something about the authentic humility of knowing ourselves as true beginners—in faith and in life, no matter our age or experience—that positions us for revelation…and relationship. I think it’s a taste of the Great Mystery that brings me to my knees: something so vast and beautiful that I can feel the awe of it but scarcely even describe the experience.
Maybe it’s a bit like walking out on the beach (where I am visiting now), looking out across the swells, and saying, I know the sea…but all we’ve done is waded into the shallows or played in the waves. Yes, we have tasted a precious bit—but we hardly know the 320 million cubic miles that make up the oceans and their treasures.
The Zen tradition has a word for this, Shoshin, usually translated as “beginner’s mind.” It’s an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions—the qualities that describe a beginner. Or a child.
And “child” is exactly the word Jesus used to describe this quality. All three synoptic gospels record Jesus’ mysterious insight: “Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Did anyone listening to him understand that our access to the life of God is not a matter of accumulating knowledge but of a playful, enthusiastic delight in encounter?
Jesus got more explicit in a public prayer, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children” (Mt. 11:25). And he worked the concept out in more personal fashion in conversation with Nicodemus, the educated but curious Pharisee. He stumped the scholar with talk of being “born again,” of starting over in the school of the Spirit. Again…and again…and again.
Many believers make the mistake of reducing “born again” to a singular event, yet this is meant to be a way of being, a way of life. A constant starting afresh in the newness of spiritual discovery. Are you ready to be a child again?
Take everything you think you know about God and yourself and this world, and learn to hold it loosely, expecting God to surprise and astound you…and even turn what you think on its head. There are only two alternatives to life on this earth: fossilizing internally in the certainty of all you believe, or actually growing and changing in constant revelation from a teachable heart. Lord, grant me the latter!
Embrace the simplicity of a chid.