YOUNGER SAINTS AND YOUNG AT HEART….
There is a classic book, and now a movie, called The Little Prince. In it, a Little boy travels the cosmos to visit planets and learns life treasures, life lessons, along the way.
In the beginning, The Little Prince loves a rose and believes her that she is the only rose in all the universe. But when The Little Prince visits Earth, he finds a whole garden of roses. He falls into despair, for his rose is not unique in the least.
Although it is marketed towards children, it is actually a book of parables for adults. Listen to this one about the Little Prince and the Fox.
“”Who are you?” asked the little prince, and added, “You are very pretty to look at.”
“I am a fox,” the fox said.
“Come and play with me,” proposed the little prince. “I am so unhappy.”
“I cannot play with you,” the fox said. “I am not tamed.”
“Ah! Please excuse me,” said the little prince.
But, after some thought, he added:
“What does that mean–‘tame’?”
“You do not live here,” said the fox. “What is it that you are looking for?”
“I am looking for men,” said the little prince. “What does that mean–‘tame’?”
“Men,” said the fox. “They have guns, and they hunt. It is very disturbing. They also raise chickens. These are their only interests. Are you looking for chickens?”
“No,” said the little prince. “I am looking for friends. What does that mean–‘tame’?”
“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. It means to establish ties.”
“‘To establish ties’?”
“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world . . .”
“Please–tame me!” he said.
“I want to, very much,” the little prince replied. “But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.”
“One only understands the things that one tames,” said the fox. “Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me . . .”
And so the little prince begins to tame the fox by spending time with him. The fox tells him not to speak, because “words are the source of misunderstandings. They just sit near one another, closer and closer, over a great period of time.
“After the fox is tamed, it is time for the prince to leave, and the fox is about to cry. Because of this, the prince worries that the taming has hardly done any good. But the fox says it has done him good “because of the color of the wheat fields” The golden wheat will remind the fox of the prince’s golden hair, which will make the wheat fields a source of happiness to the fox – until he was tamed, the wheat fields meant nothing to him. Thus, according to the fox, it is our relationships that make the world around us significant and meaningful.” (https://www.shmoop.com/little-prince/fox.html)
The fox then shares three secrets, or treasures, with the boy:
1. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.
2. “It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.
3. “You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.
In our kid’s chat, I read a portion from the Little Prince. Remember the three secrets to the fox’s life…
1. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.
2. It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.
3. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.
After hearing and understanding these, the Little Prince is able to return and love his rose not because she is the only rose in the universe, but because she is HIS rose. What is essential isn’t that she’s a rose… it’s what’s invisible about her. Their time together has tamed one another – established ties with one another – and that is what makes them unique and important to one another. And once you have ties with someone, you’re in covenant with them. You’re responsible for that relationship.
Pretty heady stuff for kids, right? It’s why I advise reading this book as an adult, too. In many ways, it’s a retelling of the stories from our Bible. The fox could almost be a retelling of our section of James today.
James writes about teachers and words, horses and boats… but what he really is drilling down to is taming – is establishing ties.
James explains that a boat is tamed with a rudder. The little thing allows the boat and its riders to then tame the wind, and glide across the water safely.
A horse is tamed with a bit in its mouth. And this tiny thing takes control of its hold body and tells the horse where to go.
These little things have big effects.
Now, a little spark is what starts a wild forest fire that burns everyone and everything in its path.
Your tongue, writes James, is a little thing. Does it spark fires that harm, or does it work like a horse bit or a ship rudder and make something tamed?
James argues that our tongues are wild, untamed, and don’t have those established ties with us or others. Tongues speak curses and blessings both. If we get used to speaking bad about people, we’re like brackish water and unable to speak blessings of living water. Or we’re plants trying to produce fruit that isn’t native to us… because we’re used to producing the fruit of curses. So we should practice giving forth sweet, fresh waters and good fruits – then those things come more naturally.
What we spent time on is what is important to us. Think of that horse James describes… it wasn’t actually the BIT that tamed it. Someone established ties with that horse over time, teaching it to respond to the bit, building up a relationship. Little things, over time, built up between a trainer and that horse until the horse and the trainer were trained to one another. Knew one another.
And think of that boat – that rudder was learned by the captain over time. Over time, the captain learned how to watch the sails and wind. This wasn’t simply a matter of putting a rudder on the boat and suddenly it is tame… time, energy, thought, and patience had to be invested.
And think of the fox. He says he is same as 100,000 other foxes… but with established ties, he will be unique and special to the little prince… who, until the little boy is tamed, is just the same as 100,000 little boys to the fox.
Time invested, words spoken, meals shared, prayers over one another – these are little things that tame us to one another. That establish ties with one another.
Our tongues, our words, spoken or typed on Facebook, or instant message, or signed, or communicated in any way – are us investing time into someone or something.
They are little things with big effects.
Is that effect a blessing, bringing forth the uniqueness of each person, bringing forth positive ties, taming one another into a meaningful relationship?
Or is that effect a curse, spreading negativity and sin like a wild fire, burning bridges and scorching hearts and refusing to spend time to know someone or something?
That is the tension with the word tame… tame can mean control, to be docile… but it can also mean to establish ties, to invest time in, to be friends… in what sense of the word is your tongue tamed or are you tamed by your tongue?
Jesus and Peter get into an argument with their tongues today. Jesus has spent SO MUCH time with his disciples. Like the Little Prince, he invests time in his disciples and they invest time into him. He guides them from knowing Jesus is just one of 100,000 men to knowing he is something so much more… and he asks them today: just who do people say I am?
We, the listeners, hear the disciples call back to all the other motifs, themes, Jesus has fulfilled. He has been like Elijah, and like John… But Jesus presses them for their own secret, their own life truth. Who do YOU think I am?
We listeners hear Peter proclaim the truth: You are the messiah! But then Peter rebukes Jesus for saying the messiah will suffer, be rejected and murdered.
Peter wants to tame Jesus in the control sense of the word. Taming as control is not the same as taming to establish ties. Taming to control is trying to dominate the other. It would be like coming to the fox with a tranquilizer dart; or the horse with an electric prod. Yes, you’ll establish ties… but they won’t be good ones. The other will obey, but not be tame.
Taming, in the sense of establishing ties, is to approach one another with respect. Giving room for the other. Learning who the other is, and appreciating that. It is coming a little closer to the fox every day and starting the horse on bridle or a training snaffle. This lets us know the horse, and the horse know us, and trust to be built. Not fear or control.
Peter wants to control Jesus. He argues the messiah should be the one who doesn’t suffer but relieves suffering. He isn’t rejected, but welcomed as the new king and throws off Rome. He also isn’t murdered – he rules!
Jesus wants to tame Peter in the establish ties sense of the word. He wants Peter to realize that the divine will isn’t set on killing Romans and military conquest. “What is essential is invisible to the eye” – the essentials are divine things. Essentials – love, forgiveness, reconciliation, time ‘wasted’ on others. Essentials – spending your life not focused on how to get ahead, or how to preserve what you have… for it is not living to be in fear of loss. Instead, you gain your life by giving your life away and ‘wasting’ it on invisible, but so essential, things like love.
Like being tamed.
Like spending enough time with your messiah to know why he is different than all others. Like spending enough time with your brothers and sisters to know what makes them unique. Like ‘wasting’ enough time sitting in prayer, and meditation, and scripture reading to know that your invested time makes these things all the more precious.
What profit is there to gain the whole world…?
To have everything? To never waste a moment? To never pause to smell the rose or tame the fox or pray with the stranger or speak with the messiah?
… But forfeit your life? Give up the opportunity to establish ties, make things important, and care for one another?
No one can tame the tongue. We will make mistakes. We will say the wrong things. Sometimes things just slip out! We will have moments when Jesus ought to yell at us “Get behind me, Satan!”
“Words cause misunderstandings…”
But we are more than our words. We are more than our thoughts and prayers. We are also actions. Jesus doesn’t toss Peter out. Jesus invests more time into him. Jesus has a tie with Peter, they are tamed to one another, and therefore, in covenant… responsible…to one another.
When you disagree, it’s okay if you’re in covenant with one another, if you’re in committed friendships and relationships, congregations and families. It means the harsh tongue can be forgiven with time invested back into the relationship. It means the wildfire can be snuffed out. It may mean much time of silence, and getting to know one another again. It may be for the best that, after reflecting, you part ways much as the fox and the little prince did…
But their relationship was worth it “because of the color of the wheat”, now wheat is a constant reminder of the good times with the prince for the fox.
I’ve had friends and family come and go over the years. But they were all worth it – because of how we tamed, established ties, with one another and changed each other’s worlds. I see symbols that remind me of these good times and memories, much like the wheat reminds the fox of this time with the boy.
The things that remind me are as varied as a song, a scent, a particular restaurant, a food.
Some of these people passed away. Some of them passed to new cities. Some them passed on to new phases of their lives.
But they were worth it because of 4th of July cake, lavender pillows, LiveJournal, glow in the dark markers, and spiders… just some of the many things that make me remember fond times with other who tamed me, and I hope I tamed them – established ties with them – and they think of our time together fondly.
So if you want a friend… tame one another. Waste time on one another. It is the language of love – a language without words. God is investing God’s whole life, and more, into you.