To begin to be, to become, as here with fall coming to Vanaprastha. From foreground to background: marigolds clustered in bloom, spice bush leaves yellowing, river oak grasses going to seed in the meadow in front of the house and behind, maples tinted red.
When becoming becomes us, looking good on us like a suit of clothes, it doesn’t come all at once. To become takes a lifetime of seasonal changes. Beginning in spring and ripening of summer, glorious colors strip away in fall to reveal the stark beauty of wintertime.
To become Mother
In the springtime of our lives, parents have a great deal of influence over who we become. No doubt about it, they give us both nature and nurture. Although I’ve written about becoming my mother, she always said I was more like my father—hardworking and tenderhearted. Yet, the other night, when Keith and I were talking about the benefits our childhoods—having two parents, getting an education, valuing work—it was my mother’s actions that I cited.
“She made sure we had access to good schools, music lessons, and a college education,” I said. “And she helped us get our first jobs, coaching us through job-interview simulations and showing us the importance of a firm handshake.” Mother encouraged us to put our best foot forward, to dress well and get decent haircuts.
Keith grinned. “My mother spoke to me about such things, too, and my dad—not that I always listened.” I met his grin. My contrarian husband, but in truth, I hadn’t always listened either.
Though I wasn’t brought up in a faith-based household, my parents had an appreciation of Biblical wisdom. The book of Proverbs is a collection of sayings and instructions, especially for the young, those beginning to be. Here’s one about becoming wise by choosing wise friends:
Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm. Proverbs 13:20
To become a writer
I was a teacher before becoming a writer. Serving others suited me well, as it had both my parents. My mother was a public-school teacher, my father a pediatrician in academics: he healed children, taught, and wrote. Both in nature and nurturing, service brought out the best in me. But then something happened between my teaching and writing years. I became a child of God, and that becoming revealed both a requirement and a mysterious inversion.
The requisite is found in the words of John the Baptist speaking about Jesus in John 3:30. “He must become greater; I must become less.”
Then the mysterious inversion recorded in Matthew. After the disciples found out that the mother of Zebedee’s sons had asked Jesus to grant her sons special positions in His Kingdom, the disciples were indignant. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave…” Matthew 20:25-27.
To become sage
Spring, summer, now fall when becoming becomes us if we make a priority of becoming sage. What does that mean? As I wrote two and a half years ago: We grow up, grow whole, and grow old. Walking with Jesus—the ultimate “wise” friend of Proverbs—we may also become sage. That is the essence of spiritual maturity.
In starkness, we begin to be. To become.
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