On this very different Thanksgiving without our usual football game and giant feast of everyone who hasn’t a place to go or a people to see, God has given me the gift of silence and space. In this silence and space, he has spoken to me in a new way through one of my favorite children’s book, The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery.
While wandering in the Sahara Desert, the little prince from another planet happens upon a fox. Their encounter leaves them both changed. And rereading their encounter left me changed this morning. It washed a tired heart in truth.
“Who are you?” the little prince asked. “You’re very pretty…”
“I’m a fox,” the fox said.
“Come and play with me,” the little prince proposed. “I am feeling so sad.”
“I can’t play with you,” the fox said. “I’m not tamed.”
“Ah! Excuse me,” said the little prince. But upon reflection, he added, “What does tamed mean?”….
“It’s something that’s been too often neglected. It means ‘to create ties’…For me you’re only a little boy just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you have no need of me, either….But if you tame me, we’ll need each other. You’ll be the only boy in the world for me. I’ll be the only fox in the world for you…”
“People have forgotten this truth, ” the fox said. “But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed….”
How Family Tames Us
Family tames us. It creates ties. It takes ordinary people set apart for us. On a spinning sphere with billions of people, family creates ties between certain people. Those ties tame us and change us. It would be far easier to live detached and unattached as the fox had lived until he let the strange little prince tame him. But once tamed, the fox was known and seen. Deep down, life was markedly different even when, on the surface, it was the same.
The fox wisely recognizes that it is time spent with others that tames us. Time creates ties. These ties shape and change us, but they also make us responsible to one another. Once we are tamed, we cannot live as we used to live. Our hearts are tied to others, for better or for worse.
My family has tamed me and I have tamed my family. Sights, smells, and sounds remind me of them and fill my life with meaning. We are tied together, even when we are thousands of miles apart.
The Beautiful Taming of the Body of Christ
But it is possible to be twice-tamed. Tamed by physical family and also by the body of Christ. In the family of Christ, ordinary people become set apart to each other because they are set apart to the Lord. Ties are made with time and experience. Lives are connected. And it’s messy. But it’s also beautiful, this taming of the Church. Single people are seen and tied to families. Widows become friends. Families are freed from idolatrous self-centeredness by connection to others.
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous people. You were once not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10).
The body of Christ looks different right now. For a season, we are cautiously keeping space between us, at least physically. I cannot wait to be together freely again. In the meanwhile, while are distanced, we must remember that we are responsible to the Lord in healthy ways for those to whom we have been tied.
On this strange Thanksgiving, I find myself grateful to the Lord who has twice-tamed me. The beauty of being tamed shimmers today in the midst of a heavy and dark year. May you be tamed this holiday season, my friend.