Blessed are those who have learned
"Whoever hates correction is stupid" - who wants to be stupid?? Rebecca writes an encouraging piece to remind up of the importance of learning and the freedom which comes from embracing learning.
Have you ever felt like you have mastered something? Like you know how to do something and you do it well?
Perhaps there is a recipe for a favourite dessert that you know by heart and make for all special occasions. Maybe you play an instrument and you’re so confident and content, that you can just close your eyes and play.
You might feel this way about your job, or your degree. You know your stuff. You’re good at it. Others might even recognise your ability and success.
Once upon a time, you were learning. But now, you are an expert.
What we praise, we raise
You know, when a kid is really good at a sport or music, or a teenager is excelling in an activity they have done their whole life, people say things like ‘oh he left the womb with a football at his feet’. ‘Oh yeah she was singing before she could talk or walk’.
We, for some reason, often tend to overlook the years of hard work and learning that kids put into their craft and instead say they were born with their ability. We praise them for being born with so much talent! We praise them for having talent, and for being so good at what they do.
We raise up our kids and ourselves to think that we need to be good at something. I think that the narrow focus of praising people who are really good at an activity can then lead us to raising up the idea that your worth comes from what you are good at, and we raise people with the pressure to be good.
But by praising the outcome of their mastery or talent, we ignore all the learning and mistakes that were made along the way. People can develop an expectation that they will pick up a new skill with no issues or no need to persevere. However, this simply isn’t realistic. Life is a constant journey where we learn and grow. It is not always easy, it takes time and that is okay.
Mastery can also breed arrogance because we might reach a point where we think we no longer need to learn. But this is the opposite to how we are called to position ourselves: we ought to clothe ourselves with … humility (Colossians chapter 3, verse 12); we are to be completely humble (Ephesians chapter 4, verse 2).
Knowing that there is more to learn demonstrates that we value humility.
But, blessed are those who have learned
I came across Psalm chapter 89, verse 15 recently. It says:
“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you” (Psalm chapter 89, verse 15).
Now I know the verse says learned, as in past tense. But I got really excited, and still do get excited, by reading this verse and knowing that, well, I don’t need to master the activity of acclaiming, of praising, God. I don’t need to be really good at it.
Instead, I can learn to acclaim God. Instead, it is something I can work on over time, and improve on. I can practice, I can humbly give it a go in all my limitations and develop a deeper understanding, ability and posture to sing my praises and shout my acclamations of God.
God doesn’t necessarily expect us to have left the womb with the fully developed ability to praise Him. It does take time to learn how to praise God. There is no pressure on us to know how to praise or what to praise God for. It is something we can learn.
In Proverbs chapter 1, verse 7, it says that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge”. Not the end of knowledge, not the completeness of the knowledge - but the beginning of knowledge.
As we go through life, experiencing its anticipated peaks and valleys, we find out more about who God is and why we praise Him.
Not a call for perfection
One of the many things I love about my church is that we have a phrase plastered on one of the walls, and part of it says ‘nobody’s perfect’. No, it’s not just for decoration - I can recall many times that our senior pastor, Grant, has shared in his sermons that we aim to be a church where nobody is perfect; because it’s Jesus who is perfect. There is so much freedom in acknowledging that.
Yes, we can strive for excellence and we can work hard to produce good work. We learn and we develop skills. Our achievements can glorify God and honour His name.
But we aren’t perfect. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. Heck, if anyone knows we are not perfect, it is God, because He sent us Jesus.
And so, when we realise that we are blessed to learn, to be learning, to have learned, and that there isn’t a call for perfection, perhaps then we can tune out the noise of the world that tells us we should value mastery. We can stop believing the false message that our worth comes from our skills and how good we are at tasks.
We can live in the freedom of the blessing of learning, and not suffer under the pressure of having to be good at something.
Finally, the Bible couldn’t put it any clearer: whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid. (Proverbs chapter 12, verse 1).
Rebecca Hoverd studies law and geography at The University of Auckland and loves writing as a way to communicate with God and to unpack her thoughts. She loves coffee, conversations, and would love to hear your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.