Beginner’s Mind

And so we reach the dusk of a stressful day of Facebook arguments, boundary violations, writing building use request letters, exploring possibilities, dreaming, aching, and spending time with friends. Though the day has been transformative in some ways, mind-bangingly frustrating in others, and ultimately the opposite of an “off” day as it was supposed to be, I have learned. And I have unlearned.

The interesting thing about my seminary education is that it robbed me of learning, scrubbing off my patina of erudition and the sores of “having all the answers”–that unique plague of Western Christendom. To be sure I learned information: verb conjugations, literary forms, pastoral skills, and so on–but putting that information into practice necessitates letting go of my grip on what I think the right answers are, being led from the “correctness” that glows like ugly orange industrial sodium lamps into the flaming sunlight that is “truth.” I no longer have all the answers. I have what I believe, sure, and I have the Christian tradition in my blood and my education as my means of framing my relationship with God, but the more I grow the more I see my own beliefs as being smudged reflections of Truth. Truth is not a parcel of information to be meted up; truth is a Person who draws us into his wild dance of creation and resurrection.

Living in the gritty waltz of grace is something that takes unlearning. It takes what the Zen masters call shoshen, that is, beginner’s mind–a mind free of preconceptions, of answers, and of self-assurance, and one that is radically open to the new learning that dancing in the great gracious rhythms of Christ will provide. And so I make my evening prayer tonight as I do every night: “let what mattered stick, let what didn’t matter fall away, and open my heart to the dance again at dawn.”

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