Saturday, May 11, 2013

Learning as a lifelong endeavor

Hebrews 5:11-14 (NIV)

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
It would not be a great surprise to find myself reciting verse 11 to a son of ours in his teenage years, sitting at the dining room table refusing to take ownership of a mistake he’s made time and time again. I’m sure my parents, especially my mother, could easily come up with a handful of lessons they tried to impart quite regularly, only I made it clear I was unwilling to give their opinion the time of day. I would like to think I finally came around on all of the pertinent points, but maybe they’re still scratching their heads at my stubbornness in a few key areas.

But it’s verse 12 that cuts in on me tonight. By this time, three months away from my 34th birthday, I probably ought to be a better teacher than I am. Yet I still feel I can benefit from being taught the truths of God’s word over and again. While I do rather enjoy getting deep into discussion about challenging theology or exploring concepts I’ve rarely encountered, it seems the most memorable lessons are the ones focused on the elementary topics.

Perhaps that’s more a comment on sermons than it is on a class or small group discussion. As much as I enjoy someone commanding the pulpit who gets my mind working a few new gears, I think I’m most moved by a preacher’s thoughts on the foundations of faith, the cornerstone topics that define a life lived through the filter of God’s saving grace.

Can I always distinguish good from evil? I might know what’s not good for me, but I don’t always know how to keep myself on the straight path. Can I teach my kids about righteousness? I would like to think so, though I’m always worried about raising kids who are self righteous — and of acting in that manner myself. Will I ever not need to be taught the truths of God’s word? Of course not. I’ll always be able to learn more, and hopefully I’ll always want to learn.

There’s always room for improvement in my life — in any aspect of my life. I can be a better writer. I can get my body in better shape. I can sleep more. I can learn to do a few more things around the house. I can make better use of the time I spend with my kids. I can pray more. I can do more to show my wife how much I love her. I can seek God’s desire for me before I act instead of making dumb mistakes and seeking forgiveness. I will always, every day, have opportunities to grow and change, and I sincerely hope I never get to a point where I’ve decided to just stop learning, because that’s the day I stop trying.

Solid food is great. But, as a pretty smart guy once said, man does not live by bread alone. Milk won’t ever leave my diet. I think in this passage God is really calling me to balance — to learn enough to teach, but to never consider myself above learning a few more lessons of my own. And as any experienced parent knows, sometimes the kids do a better job of teaching us about ourselves than we could ever hope to do teaching them about life.

A prayer for May 11:

Lord, open my mind wide to the wonders of your world. Make me ever curious to learn more, to know exactly what it is you are trying to communicate. Never let me become fully satisfied with myself because I know as long as I have breath you are calling me to a specific purpose. But also please help me share what you have taught me with others, especially my kids. Let me speak with your words and wisdom, that I may be a channel for what you want the world to know. Fill me with your love and then let it pour out to anyone in need. Amen.

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