Learning and Knowing

Point your kids in the right direction —
when they’re old they won’t be lost.
Proverbs 22:6 (The Message)

Yet another school year is just about to begin in Marshfield. In just a few days students will be returning to the halls of the local schools. Some will be excited by the prospect of learning new things in the next several months. Others will be anxious about whether or not they will know anyone in their class, or in their lunch period. Still others will dread the return to the classroom, preferring the relaxed summer atmosphere to the expectations and pressure of classes.

The pending return to classes, and an invitation to a high school reunion, have prompted me to reflect on my own days in school. I can name several teachers who lived out the proverb of pointing us in the right direction. Those names make me smile, because they truly touched my life and are much of the reason that I haven’t been too lost as an adult.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made a few wrong turns on the road of life. For the most part those “scenic detours” have led to momentary confusion, not a full-blown case of being lost. And those early teachers, at school, at home, and at church, are the ones I owe my thanks. They pointed me in the right direction. Which has been more beneficial for me than any of the actual coursework they assigned. I may not remember the texts we read, or the assignments I completed. But I do remember the lessons I learned.

I learned that how you treat others is important. I learned it is best to be honest and caring. And I learned that no one ever knows it all. That may have been the most important lesson of my childhood. Because we never know it all, we can never stop learning. There is a corollary as well, no one is ever perfect. That means we can never stop trying, practicing, or reaching. We can, and should, work to be life-long students, and always seek to improve in every aspect of our lives.

The ideal of learning something new throughout our lives is a way of constantly enriching our minds. Exercise and diet help us to maintain our physical bodies in the best shape possible. Engaging in spiritual disciplines, worship, and Bible study helps us to continue to grow spiritually. And, regular interaction with others through friendship and fellowship aids in maintaining a strong emotional support system. Taking care of our whole being empowers us to love God with our heart, mind, soul, and strength.

Life-long learning allows us to know a good many things. However, there are some things which we simply must rely on our faith to “know.” Hebrews 11:1-2 says, “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.” (The Message) As much as I want to learn those about the things that I can experience with my senses, I also want to know God, who transcends all of our senses.

In Psalm 46:10 the psalmist writes: “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.” (NRSV) Even with the hustle and bustle of life. With the myriad of tasks which lay before us in the coming days, it is so very important to take time to be still. For it is in that quiet stillness where the voice of God is most clearly heard. When the noise of life becomes overbearing and the challenge of learning new and exciting things threatens to drown out the Author of All Things, take the advice of stillness. Be still and know God.

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