As I think about the “beginner’s mind,” I am thinking about being childlike and how God calls us to a simple yet profound faith. In Matthew 18, Jesus instructs his disciples to be “childlike” to enter the kingdom of heaven. As I explored this theme of beginning or being childlike, I went to Webster’s Dictionary as I often do.
(of an adult) having good qualities associated with a child: she speaks with a childlike directness.
Or another interesting way of looking at this word is looking at its synonyms:
innocent, artless, guileless, unworldly, unsophisticated, naive, ingenuous, trusting, unsuspicious, unwary, credulous, gullible; unaffected, without airs, uninhibited, natural, spontaneous; informal wet behind the ears.
After reading all of this, I was struck with just how powerful the idea of thinking like a beginner could be in our walk with God every day. What a powerful analogy Jesus chose to teach his arrogant disciples the sort of behavior needed to enter The Kingdom.
The more I look at “childlike” faith, the more richness I find in this narrative. One of my favorite things about a child is their insatiable curiosity. Many children (myself definitely included!) are incredibly curious, and I think this is a wonderful and overlooked trait to have in a spiritual life. There is such depth in the Bible and so many stories of supernatural wonders, and at the same time, there are some very mundane stories of people walking through the day-to-day tedium of life. I think God wants us, no matter where we are in life, to explore what He is doing around us. I am curious about what science and spirituality have to say to each other. I am curious about how current social and political issues align with my faith. I am curious about how God is talking to me as I have unkind thoughts toward someone else.
No matter what issue of life we are thinking about, I believe God wants us to bring that to Him and see where He is at work. Be curious, and act on your curiosity.
Another trait of a child that I appreciate is their willingness not only to ask questions as they become curious, but their readiness to explore their curiosity and take risks.
In a recent book by Seth Godin titled V is for Vulnerability, The ABC’s for Adults, he writes about how he is sometimes nervous about sharing his talents because it makes him vulnerable. I am like this in that I like to play it safe sometimes in order to avoid being vulnerable. Being safe, doing the same thing all the time is comfortable and easy. There is a lot of good to having routines, I have many routines that I very rarely stray from; but I wonder what I am missing because I am hesitant to take a risk. Children will find pleasure in just about anything they do because they are willing to try new things and be vulnerable. Children are OK with cutting their knee as they try a new sport for the first time. I feel old; I don’t want to cut my knee. Because I don’t want to get hurt or be vulnerable, I can’t ever experience the newness a child delights in.
To be childlike or to have a beginners mind, we have to be OK with taking risks, say “yes” to something this week and see where God is at work in that newness.
The last theme of the beginner’s mind I want to talk about is the idea of “constantly renewed immediacy.” This is the idea that no matter how many times a child has gone down the slide, each time they go down they react as if it was their first time. I remember holding my nephew, Malec, as we walked from one playground to the next and he acted with such joy and exuberance, you would have thought he had never been to a playground before. There was something overwhelmingly beautiful about how Malec reacted to that playground that has stuck with me. The way he balanced the memory of what a playground entails with his unbridled enthusiasm was incredible.
I think about how many times I have said “The Lord’s Prayer” in church and how I can easily forget the power in those words. If I look at this prayer with “constant renewed immediacy,” how might I be moved by those words?
What an awesome way to live life, full of astonishment by every tiny detail and how God is at work amongst us.
This week, my challenge is to think like a beginner. I want to experience God at work in my life the way a child might, without any inhibition or expectation for what could be.