Several years ago, a friend recommended that I read a children’s book written by Antoine de Saint-Exupery called The Little Prince. “It is surprisingly deep,” she said. “I promise you’ll really enjoy it!” Figuring that a children’s book at worst wouldn’t take much of my time if it was a bust, I gave it a shot. My friend was right. It’s one of those books that will show you new things each time you read it. I loved it!
To sum up the story briefly (apologies in advance to devoted fans for the shabby job), the little Prince lives on Asteroid B-612 with only a self-absorbed rose for a companion. One day, the Prince leaves his small home to explore the universe. On the way, he meets several characters, including one very wise fox, whose lives all illustrate for the Little Prince what is most important in life. He ends up on earth where he meets the story’s narrator, a pilot who crash landed in the Sahara desert, a year after he landed. It is through this narrator that we meet the Little Prince and discover the profound secrets of his life.
When I found out I was expecting a little boy, I knew I wanted The Little Prince as his nursery theme. It has great fodder for a little boy – adventures, space travel, valuable lessons, and a fox. Granted, since we live in a two bedroom apartment, this theme has to share space with big sister’s Beatrix Potter motif, but I figure it all works as a classic children’s lit theme.
This pregnancy sure has presented it’s fair share of challenges physically, mentally, emotionally and most especially spiritually. I recently found out that this baby too would enter the world via C section, and if you’ve read some of my previous posts, you know it’s a big pill that I hoped to avoid having to swallow. But now that it is a definite, I’m trying to let go of all that has been holding me back from finding some peace.
One of the things I have been meditating on is what it means to have a childlike faith and trust in God, and as I did so, I thought back to The Little Prince. The theme throughout the book is to see the world as a child sees it, simply and with wonder, clarity and humility. Combing back through some of my favorite parts, the words began to take on a new and surprisingly comforting meaning.
When the Prince meets the fox is perhaps the best part of the whole story, and comes nearly at the end. Upon meeting, the fox asks to be tamed by the Prince.
“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….”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince
It made me think that God’s purpose through this whole 9 months has been to tame me. I used to watch all the John Wayne westerns growing up, and I can guarantee that somewhere in those films is a horse being tamed. From the horse’s perspective, it’s probably a traumatic experience. The horse, once free to roam the wide prairie, finds himself confined in a small corral, tied to a rope that’s controlled by a creature he fears, who’s suddenly forcing the horse to do all sorts of things it doesn’t want to do. The horse was perfectly happy on the prairie, and wants nothing more than to break free and go back, unaware of how aimless an existence it was he led there. He doesn’t know at the time that he’s being shaped for a far more noble purpose, and so he fights. It’s a process that involves incredible discipline. The process was likely painful at times for the horse, perhaps even for the rider if the horse rebelled, but eventually with great patience and persistence, there was created a deep bond of trust between the two.
Along his travels, the Prince also encounters a wall covered in roses. He is struck by the number and beauty of them, especially since his rose had told him that she was the only one like herself in all the universe. But since he didn’t tend them as he did his own rose, he doesn’t care for them. He thinks back to the haughty rose he cultivated on his little asteroid. As annoying and deceitful as she could be, the little Prince had never stopped tending and caring for his rose, and as a result, she was worth more to him than the entire wall of roses.
You’re beautiful, but you’re empty [he said to the roses]…One couldn’t die for you. Of course, an ordinary passerby would think my rose looked just like you. But my rose, all on her own, is more important than all of you together, since she’s the one I’ve watered. Since she’s the one I put under glass, since she’s the one I sheltered behind the screen. Since she’s the one for whom I killed the caterpillars (except the two or three butterflies). Since she’s the one I listened to when she complained, or when she boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing at all. Since she’s my rose.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince
As much as I don’t like it, it is being tamed by Christ that will make me His. Through this whole pregnancy, I haven’t really seen where He has watered me, put me under glass to protect me, where He listened patiently to my complaints or boasts. In my confusion as to why He should give me this cross, I could only approach Him with skepticism or anger or as I tended to prefer, not at all. I could only see that I was in a corral, confined and under heavy discipline. What I never really considered till now is that I was in great need of taming, in great need of seeing where in my hubris I insist on doing things on my own in my own way. Despite my assessment that I am doing “well enough”, I am in constant need of being made over by Him, to be tamed so that I can become His very own rose.
For a Man Who said He came to give us life in abundance, Jesus sure did talk about death a lot, both ours and His own. It is just the order of things that we can never mount to something higher without dying to something lower. Jesus certainly never sugar coated what following Him would require of us, namely acceptance of our cross, that paradoxical truth that only by embracing the pains we receive will our lives have joy, meaning, and the assurance of an eternity in His Love. Both Old and New Testament are full of reminders that discipline comes from a loving God, that to be tamed, though painful, is the only way for us to live an abundant and meaningful life. He loves us so much that He lets us fight back, remaining ever patient, putting slack in the rope but never letting go, waiting for us to trust and submit to the higher purpose He has in mind for us.