Jesus says the only people who can recognize and be ready for what he’s talking about are the ones who come with the mind and heart of a child. It’s the same reality as the beginner’s mind.
Beginner’s mind is a readiness to always be in awe, to always be excited. Beginner’s mind is one’s mind before the hurts of life have made us cautious and self-protective. We can still be excited, we can still be in awe, we can still expect tomorrow to be different than today.
Timothy’s fear was seemingly transmuted into what we call “beginner’s mind,” which is what grace always does—it turns our vices into another way to love and serve God’s reality. What starts as timidity becomes humility and openness and teachability.
Buddhism teaches that there is a spark in each person that represents one’s true nature; this is sometimes called Buddha Nature or the Original Mind. This spark is the child mind, fresh and always curious about experience.
Beginner’s mind is a way of life. Each day we are challenged to see the same familiar people and landscapes with new eyes. Just as the cosmos is created and sustained anew each moment, everything is alive and changing, ourselves included, if we are spiritually awake and paying attention.
If the world doesn’t learn this kind of humility, what we’re calling beginner’s mind, I think we’re in trouble. And we’re seeing it at the highest levels—the absolute arrogance of “knowing” and of being convinced we do know and no one else knows like we know.
Developing a Teachable Heart
Spiritual writer Adele Ahlberg Calhoun describes how Jesus looked for “teachability” in those who followed him:
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).
Jesus was passionate about those with ears to hear. He was attracted to those who willingly admitted how much they didn’t know. People who could lay aside their prejudices and entertain something new were often the recipients of Jesus’ transforming word. Jesus is still looking for teachable disciples. How teachable are we? Do we hide behind our knowledge and feel uncomfortable being the learner? Will we be the student again and again and again?
Calhoun offers these prompts for reflection:
How do you live with the paradoxes of faith? What do you do when you can’t fully explain something? Are you comfortable with mystery? Are you comfortable saying, “I don’t know”?…
Become aware of your compulsions to let others know what you think. Notice when you’re composing what you will say next rather than listening to the one who is speaking. When do you feel the urge to pontificate or otherwise hold forth? Ask God to give you a teachable heart and a will to listen. What do you learn about yourself? About others? About what God values?
Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us, rev. ed. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2015), 93, 94.
Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Jenna Keiper, Winter Bird. Jenna Keiper, Mystic. Jenna Keiper, North Cascades Sunrise. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.
There is humility in accepting how much we don’t know.