My son, Billy, desperately wants to do some things on his own: put on his own socks, drink from a cup, get down off the bed, climb into chairs, use a fork… It is this last one that really gets out of hand quick. Using a fork to you and me seems very simple and not at all messy. You poke the item and lift it to your mouth. You never, I hope, poke the item and then rotate the item in such a way that you have rendered it impossible to get into your mouth. Billy does this quite often.
Would it not just be easier for me to continue to skewer the piece of hot dog and shove it into his mouth for him? Yes, it would. But, if I continue to do this he will never learn to do it for himself. He has to learn that he cannot feed himself spaghetti through his nose. He is learning that when you stick an item on your fork you have to then place it into the mouth in such a way that you leave only the food in your mouth. Easy enough but very messy to learn.
This brings me to my point. Learning is messy. When you learn new things you generally make a big mess. You have to be patient and you have to keep trying. You also have to surround yourself with people that will let you make the mess. I don’t want Billy picking up a handful of french fries with his hands and sucking the ketchup off only to throw them down on the ground when he goes out to lunch with his freshman roommate at MIT. Because of this I want him to learn how to do it on his own. In order for him to learn that he is going to be frustrated a bit from time to time.
When you make mistakes do you try to correct them or do you get discouraged and quit? I have found that if I keep at it I will eventually figure out a way to do it. I have to let myself make some mistakes. This is difficult for me as I do not like to make mistakes and I make so many of them.
A relationship with God is not much different than learning to use a fork. God presents us with something new, we attempt it and make a mess. God then puts the fork back in our hand and we try again. The beauty of learning like this is that God is right there. He is showing the way. All we have to do is listen and be willing to make a mess.
Consider Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witness, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right had of the throne of God. [ESV]
The One who has set up the course has also run the course. It is He that we are learning from. We are to keep our eyes on Jesus as we run. We are not to look at all the other runners. This is interesting to me, when it comes to learning, for a couple of reasons. First is that we don’t have to measure ourselves against others. We only need to keep our eyes on the One who handed us the fork, the One who is teaching us the new thing. The second bit of interest this brings up is that we have a Perfect Teacher. Jesus does not sit in heaven looking for ways to foil our plans and make us unhappy. Rather, He awaits us in heaven knowing that what He has for us here is the best possible thing we could ever have now (see Luke 11:11ff).
Jesus may be asking you to learn some things that you do not want to learn. Or that you might think will just be too hard to learn. Why not just go ahead and learn it? It isn’t any fun only knowing how to do all the things that you already know how to do. Go ahead and make a mess. Whatever it is that He is asking you will make you better off than you were before.
We will continue to work with Billy and we will continue to pick cheese out of his hair. But eventually he will learn how to do it and then we will start something else. He will be learning things like this for the rest of his life. I pray that he never becomes stagnant in learning, that he never feels like he knows it all. Is that you? Have you learned it all or are you ready to make a mess? Ask God to teach you something, He will. It is fun to learn and it a great adventure every time.