Humility (& Beginner's Mind)
“People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’” –Mark 10:13-15
Jesus instructs us to become like little children if we are to enter the kingdom. Little children do not have everything figured out and cannot rely on their thoughts alone to make it through. They rely on someone else to be in charge. In the same way, mindful adults acknowledge that they do not have everything figured out, that our thoughts are not the end-all-be-all. “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” We don’t need to understand everything—God is in control.
In mindfulness, we call this “beginner’s mind”—opening ourselves up to each moment as if we have never seen it before and learning with curiosity at all times. We use mindfulness to give up illusions of expertise on life, taking ourselves less seriously. This helps us to notice when our thinking is helpful to us and when it is not. Negative memories and worries for the future do not tend to help problem solving, feeling happy, or trusting God. We get curious about our thoughts without needing to follow them or act on them. And we notice all of the other ways that we, as God’s children, experience Him and the world other than thinking. Rather than battling thoughts or trying to “stop” them, we can acknowledge the thoughts as part of our human experience, part of being “children.” We can come back to the present moment with an openness to God in the particularities of that particular moment, acknowledging that our thoughts need not demand our full attention.
The truth is, there is a lot we don’t understand. And there is nothing that we can predict. We control much less than we would like to believe. But God knows all and sees all, and we can trust Him to give us what we need in each moment. I don’t need to have what I need for future moments. I am given what I need in this moment, and I will have what I need in the next moment when I arrive there. Like a little child, I am strongest when I acknowledge my dependence and trust that what I need will be given when I need.
The book of Job is devoted to this theme—after 37 chapters of Job and his friends complaining, blaming, and pretending to understand (three approaches to suffering in which we are all well-versed!), God speaks “out of the whirlwind” and silences them with his voice.
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Gird up your loins like a man,
I will question you, and you shall declare to me.
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone
when the morning stars sang together
and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?
- Job 38:2-7
And God’s breathtaking, poetic description of His creative wonders goes on for another four chapters. A reminder to each of us to be humble, to recognize our smallness, to silence our thoughts and words for long enough to see God and hear what he has to say to us. To be as beginners in each moment, as little children. To respond with Job:
“See, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?
I lay my hand on my mouth.
I have spoken once, and I will not answer;
twice, but will proceed no further.”
- Job 40:4-5
"Jesus constantly looked for teachable people—people who would look beyond appearances and not make snap judgments. He warmed to those who asked honest questions. And he was grieved and dumbfounded by the educated who were hardhearted, unteachable and dense. He said to them, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39).