I’m a middle school teacher. I have been for 12 years. When most people find out that I teach middle schoolers I usually receive a few responses: “Wow, that’s a hard age,” “Bless your heart,” “Someone’s gotta do it.”
The truth is, I love teaching middle schoolers. Yes, I have dealt with my share of irrationally emotional moments and lots of ‘what were you thinking?’ situations. But the truth is, I feel like junior high is kind of a sweet spot for me because of the stage of life my students are in. They are old enough to be independent (“You lost your pencil? Figure out a way to solve that problem.”) but still young enough to be impressionable, receptive, and, for the most part, want to be loyal to the teacher.
You want to know who I never want to teach?
Now I know I am making a gross generalization here but almost anyone who has ever led staff development or teacher training knows that teachers can be some of the least receptive and most difficult when it comes to “learning new tricks.” After a staff training, teachers usually fall into one of two categories: those who receive, adapt, and implement the new ideas presented, and those who have absolutely no intention of changing their strategies. The former are usually the most effective educators. Those who are committed to being constant learners, understanding that they don’t know everything there is to know about running an effective classroom, and, in an ever changing world of technology, are always looking for ways to reach the current generation of students and push them toward success.
How are we doing at this as Christians? How are we doing at being lifelong learners, understanding that we don’t know everything about God, and, in our changing seasons of life, keeping our focus on the truth of God’s word?
Every single week, we have the opportunity to hear, read, sing, and talk about God’s truth when we gather together for service or small group. For anyone who has been going to church for awhile, it can be easy to fall into routine of just ‘doing church.’ This can be particularly dangerous for those who grew up in church or whose full time job is actually…. at church.
We are all in danger of being passive hearers of God’s word without being intentional doers of it.
James 1: 22-25 says, “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in the mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.”
Being a lifelong learner of God’s word does not just mean that we acquire more knowledge. Most of us already have plenty of that. Truly knowing God’s word should always accompany a heart change. It looks like having the humility to receive correction, the reflection to admit that your heart is deceptively wicked even though you have been a Christian for a long time, the selflessness to prioritize others’ needs above your own, and trusting God even when he doesn’t answer your prayers when and how you think he should.
If I am not careful, I am personally in danger of becoming a stagnant teacher so stuck in routine that I don’t adapt to my students, an inauthentic worship leader who simply knows how to say and sing all the right words, and a ‘know it all’ Christian with a hard heart.
But I don’t want to be any of those people. And my hope is that you don’t either (in whatever capacity your job or role is).
The key to being a lifelong learner and being open to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, is a close and authentic connection to God. Engaging in musical worship together on the weekends is just one of the ways we do that.
In our search for authenticity, may we always allow lyrics that declare “there is nothing like the love of God, no exchange for what he gave,” to create constant humility and change in us. Forever draw us into the presence and grace of Christ. May we never tire of declaring God’s holiness together, proclaiming his greatness and amazing grace that saved a whole heap of messy people. And in doing so, may we always remain open to the heart change the Holy Spirit wants to create in us.
My Lord and my king, forgive me when being in relationship with you becomes a routine, something I think I can “check off my list.” I give you permission to continually be changing my heart, doing whatever work in me you deem necessary to draw me close to you.
Reflect on this…
- What is one area of your spiritual life where you need to be a lifelong learner?
- Read the Parable of the Sower (again, if you already know it) in Matthew 13:1-23. Jesus correlates the “type of hearer” of his word to different types of soil. When you reflect on this story, what type of soil do you naturally assume you are? Why is this?
- If you have been a Christian for a while, what are some steps you take to remain close to God with an open heart?