Recently, I am fighting a painful frozen shoulder. As my shoulder becomes stiff and limited in the range of motion, I remember the great Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu’s word, “Human beings are born soft and supple; dead they are stiff and hard. Plants are born tender and pliant; dead, they are brittle and dry. Thus, whoever is stiff and inflexible is a disciple of death. Whoever is soft and yielding is a disciple of life. The hard and stiff will be broken. The soft and supple will prevail.”
This helps us understand Jesus’ teaching for us to become like children, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 18:3). Our body may become harder and stiffer as we grow older, but our spiritual body should become softer and suppler as we become mature.
What does it mean?
We have seen that some Christians are hard and stiff in their beliefs. There was a very nice Christian lady who was on the path to spiritual growth and became flourished in faith to the point that she could preach on behalf of the pastor when he is away. However, after listening to a certain Christian radio channel for some time on her daily commute to work, she told the pastor that she would not preach anymore because she now believed women should not preach. Later, she began to instruct her pastor that he must preach in a certain way. Eventually, she left the church to join a fundamentalist church.
That is an example of growing stiff spiritually. We have seen this in the lives of the Pharisees who got so offended by Jesus’ flexibility on healing and working during Sabbath, and on forgiving people’s sin. Their stiffness eventually put Jesus on the cross. This is how dangerous spiritual stiffness can be. We also see this in our divisive political scene today.
How to grow young then?
We must first be humble. Jesus said, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 18:4). It is not easy to be humble sometimes in our society that glorifies pride, power, and prestige. In fact, being able to be humble is true strength. God sees our humility even when people don’t see it, and God places us at the greatest position in the kingdom of heaven.
Secondly, live in the moment. A child does not have the guilt of the past and worry of the future. Most adults live with the guilt of the past and fear of the uncertain future. A friend of mine has a vivid image of our adult life, “We have one foot in the past and the other in the future, and pee on the present.” Here is a helpful nifty saying that counters it, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery, but today is a gift from God and that’s why it is called present.” Learn from children to live in the moment.
Thirdly, serve. A child may not know much and have limited ability, but they are willing to serve if only the adults do not restrict them. They will tell you what they know, and they will bring you what you ask them to. If you want to be a good husband, serve. If you want to be a good wife, serve. If you want to be a good parent, serve. If you want to be a good boss, serve. Measure your success with your service.
These three things will get you started on the journey to growing young.
Be fruitful! Amen.