Remember when you were in school and you thought, "I can't wait until I graduate and I don't have to be responsible for learning new stuff all the time"? I do. In fact, it feels like it wasn't so long ago. (It really was long ago, but let's not go there.)
The thing is... I was wrong. You never stop learning. In fact, life is one loooooong lesson. The Christian life in particular. Why? Because we're imperfect people on a journey to become like the perfect God who saved us. That sort of goal requires constant learning, incessant improvement. We truly define the term "work in progress", and it's when we find ourselves standing still rather than moving forward that we need to reassess who we are and what we do.
One of my nephews recently complained to me about having to learn things in school that he'll never actually use in life. Sound familiar? I think every kid who ever lived has said that at one time or another. I vividly recall saying that about Geometry. And truth be told I've never once had to know how to figure out the dimensions of a triangle to function in life.
But if we hope to someday reach a point when the learning process will cease to be of importance, we're sadly mistaken. It's a very real, and often frustrating, fact that we will always be learning; learning wisdom, new skills, better forms of communication, patience - the list goes on and on.
"So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of His will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better" (Colossians 1:9-10).
Clearly, we are meant to be in school all of our lives. If we ever think we've learned everything, all we have to do is look at Christ's life. That's when we realize we have such a long way to go.
But what a thrill it is to know we're not alone in this! God - through His Word, His example in Christ, and His Holy Spirit - gives, to those of us who have accepted His forgiveness and Lordship, access to everything we need to continually mature.
Yes, we're busy people. We're not capable of focusing primarily on learning as we were able to in school. Now we have jobs, family, homes... we're swamped. At times it feels that there's no way we can fit in time to learn anything new. But thankfully He uses life itself to teach us. Life is the classroom.
And if life is the classroom, then time in His Word and in prayer is homework. Wiktionary lists one definition of homework as "preliminary or preparatory work, such as research." The time we spend directly on learning about the Lord and basking in His presence is what prepares us for the classroom learning of life. If we don't spend the time in spiritual "research" we won't be prepared to survive the schooling we get as we live out our days.
So I'm resigned to the realization that I will never fully know it all until I step into the presence of God, but I can continue to learn more everyday. "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go" (Psalm 32:8). Those words are straight from the Teacher's mouth. All I need to do is pay attention.
If I get to the other end of this journey and look back on my "school" career and realize I only passed by the skin of my teeth, I'll be devastated. Not because of pride or arrogance but because it's the least I can do for the One who gave me new life. I don't want to just barely miss out on flunking His class, I want to excel in it.
After all, there is no reward that can compare to hearing Him say, "Well done, My good and faithful servant."
A Hello...and A Goodbye...
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