Monday, May 27, 2013

On remembering a lesson once it's learned

Deuteronomy 4:9 (NIV)

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.
One of the well-known phenomena of the junior high or high school youth group experience is the way retreats or mission trips inflame student passions for faith and living a Godly life, only for the emotions to dissipate fairly quickly upon getting home and back to school, if not on the return bus trip.

I would like to think the important life lessons I’ve learned in adulthood are not so fleeting, that I’ve actually been permanently changed for the better over the course of the last decade or so. But to be honest, there certainly are things I have seen and forgotten or lessons that have faded from my heart. I’d make a quick list of the bigger ones, but it’s hard to itemize all the things no longer in my memory bank.

It would be simpler, then, to collect the wisdom I’ve gained from my life’s experiences that still rests in a corner of my mind, able to leap to the forefront when a relevant situation arises. But it’s late on the Monday of a holiday weekend and my brain isn’t quite in that kind of place at the moment.

Each year on Jack’s birthday I write a newspaper column about the lessons I’ve learned in the preceding year, a tradition I started just a few days after he was born. But the vast majority of those bullet points are related to the day in, day out lessons of parenthood, and specifically in being his parent, which is by nature a unique experience, even compared to either of his brothers. Each kid is capable of teaching me widely different lessons regardless of their age or developmental stages.

Part of the reason I keep at this writing project past its one-year benchmark goal is so, on the odd occasion I do have an experience worth remembering and later passing on to my children and their (hypothetical) children, I’ve got an outlet to log and save it for later. Some days I come to an understanding while I’m writing, but there are times when the stereotypical “aha moment” happens during the day, and I know that night I can put finger to keyboard and, if for no one else, convey my lesson in a format that might serve me well days, weeks or months down the road.

But the verse in question is not asking for me to create a spiritual time capsule. These lessons are not relics to be accessed on some distant future date. They are supposed to actually change the way I see the world and how I think, act and speak. I’m to be taught and then to live as an educated guy, keeping these truths relevant and evident each day. That’s a far taller task, and one I’m sad to admit I frequently fail to fully complete.

Much like forgetting the name of the 14th vice president or the purpose of the 24th amendment, I am just too good at learning an important truth about myself or the world, then eventually carrying on as if I’d never been taught in the first place. I just need to get better, to actually change instead of simply saying I am or feeling it’s true. After all, if I’m not actually learning anything from life, what kind of teacher can my children expect me to be?

A prayer for May 27:

Lord, thank you for continuing to teach me, day in and day out, about what it means to live in faith. Your patience with me is astounding. I know there are so many times it seems I’m refusing to accept what I know to be true, or simply ignoring something plainly in front of my face. I don’t want to be so stubborn or blind, and I am trying to chip away at those tendencies and give myself fully to your will. Please don’t give up on me. My hope is in you. Amen.

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