Posted by: ritagone | May 8, 2013

Learning to Learn

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We all like to think of ourselves as learners.

But learning – really learning – is not that easy.  It takes a lot of hard work, change in behavior, and, first and foremost, a desire to make those changes, a willingness to see that something in the way we operate actually needs to be done differently.  That’s the hurdle that many of us – myself too often included – can’t make the jump over.

Case in point: last week at our regular weekly peer Growth Group (I use the term “peer” to distinguish this group from the younger married group we have been involved with for so long.  The peer group is a lovely group of people our own age which meets every Monday night to study the Bible, pray for one another and have delicious snacks.), as we progressed through the book of Romans, Michael was teaching in Romans 14 about the older, more mature believer caring for the younger one.  How does that work?  What does it mean?  A lively discussion ensued.  If a less mature believer is offended by something you do, would you be willing to give that “something” up?  Even if it involved something you loved doing? (i.e., dancing, drinking wine)  Since this is a group of people who do love their wine drinking, the question was pertinent.  And funny.  You can imagine not only the serious discussion, but the jokes.  However, behind all of that was a desire to come to terms with what it all meant, what behavior were we being asked to change or adapt?  (Interesting that a group of believers, many of whom have been Christians for decades, are still having these discussions.  Some things never quite get settled, do they?)

In our group is a lovely couple who were raised as Catholics for many years and are now what one would call “baby” Christians.  They are the people every small group would do well to have among them, the ones who ask the probing questions that no one else dares to ask.  They also speak more honestly than anyone else at times, saying what everyone is probably thinking but afraid or unwilling to articulate.

At the end of a rather robust discussion about all of this weaker brother stuff, when it all seemed quite settled, someone asked about the need to give up something else that hadn’t been in the previous discussion, and Sam (not his real name) blurted out,  “I don’t care!” rather abruptly, meaning, “I’m not going to give this thing up, no matter what you have said for the past hour!”  His feet were planted firmly on the ground of stubborn resistance.  It was as if the previous lesson and discussion had never happened.

Michael and I laughed about this when we got in the car to drive home.  We’re all rather like this: we hear the truth, we enter into the discussion, we ask the right questions of the right people, we nod our heads in agreement, and then we put our hands on our hips and our feet apart and we lift up our chins and say, “No, thank you!  I’m having none of this change, no matter what you tell me.”

It takes you a little aback when you see it so blatantly in someone else, but I do it all the time.  And you probably do too.

I claim to be a learner, but I want the learning to be at my own pace, in my own realm of subject matters, and with as little disturbance to my way of life as possible.  Please don’t ask me to give anything up.  And certainly don’t ask that I change behavior or attitudes or actions!  I’d rather just state that I’m a learner and let people think it is so without having anything behind the statement to back it up.

It’s only when the Holy Spirit comes poking and prodding at my heart and mind that behavior and attitudes and actions start to change, that any learning is put into actual practice.

And that’s a slow and painful process, sometimes taking years to accomplish.

I hate to admit it, but the thing that holds up my learning most of all…is ME!!  Because, like my friend in our Growth Group, even though I don’t say it out loud, what I usually feel in my heart is, “I don’t care!”

So my prayer today is: “God, make me care.  Even a little bit more than I did yesterday.  Make me aware of what I need to care about more.”

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