Becoming a beginner

         A Gentile woman, of Syrophoenician origin, begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
                        —Mark 7.26-30

Jesus starts out in a typical unthinking racist mode, shaped as he is by his culture— and the woman opens his eyes. It changes him. What Jesus models is not having it all figured out, but willingness to grow and change.

I’ve been a pastor for 38 years and I feel I’m just starting. It’s not just self-improvement. It’s allowing myself to be re-shaped by a Wisdom greater than me, a Grace born of mystery and given in love. It’s being taught by losses, mistakes and people who don’t know as much as I do. It’s being wiling to see things for the first time. It’s being wiling to find myself in the wrong, without judgment, and turn in a new direction.

I think of how many conversations I enter already an expert, knowing what I want to hear and say, not ready to be caught up or taught something new, not really approaching the other as a person, but as a collection of facts I already know. How much of myself do I feel pressure to have already figured out instead of discovering as the mystery of myself unfolds?

I watch my four-month old granddaughter Maggie. I can’t imagine how much she’s learning—not just information, not even just skills, but how to live. I am too, if I would follow Jesus. Maybe that’s another dimension of what it means to “enter the Realm of God as a child.” I’m not very good at it. I still think I know a lot. I’m still a beginner at becoming a beginner.

God, help me shed my smooth expertise. Give me wisdom to not know. Give me courage to be wrong, to ask, to look bad, to see for the first time, to discover the way and to turn, to turn, and take it. Help me to become a beginner.


   —September 7, 2018

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