Do you want to have more “teachable moments” or learning opportunities in your life? Because I am happy to tell you how to find yourself in the middle of more of them if you feel like you’ve been denied these opportunities in your life lately.
I love to learn.
I love to read.
I love to think about new ideas.
I love to ask why.
But do you know what I have discovered often happens in this pursuit of knowledge and, hopefully, a little wisdom? I slam face first into my own shortcomings. And they usually aren’t very pretty.
Last fall my small group, varying between Bible study and book club format over the last couple of years, set an ambitious goal. We decided to work through the book, When Helping Hurts. It was eye-opening. And dry. And full of statistics and graphs. Honestly, by the end of the book I became a little jaded about short term mission trips and felt overwhelmed by the fact that nearly all of the church “systems” to alleviate poverty and spread the gospel here in the US and abroad often create more harm than good.
As I slogged through the book, I thought back on the previous international mission trip my daughter participated in and realized our church was doing it very nearly “right”. They made connections with local ministries. Then came alongside them helping build relationships in the communities. And the students learned to be OK with the fact they may only sow seeds, but need to be ready and equipped to share their faith when an opportunity arises. And it did.
Hope filled me. Because if one church can do something right, then surely we’re not the only ones.
Earlier this year I applied to be a chaperone on our church’s international youth mission trip. When I was selected, I worked through a large list of requirements. Because the chaperones must accomplish the same requirements as the teens. And our church takes these missions opportunities seriously. They’re not just an opportunity to share the gospel, they’re an opportunity to train teens about missions, help them grow in their faith, and challenge them to be bold with it.
Those requirements included reading two books, 18 books of the Bible and a significant list of verses to memorize. As I picked up the first book, I remembered beginning it several years before. I also recalled I hadn’t finished it, but couldn’t remember why. Since several years passed since my last try, I started at the beginning of Crazy Love by Francis Chan.
It didn’t take me long to remember why I laid it down years ago. It made me mad. Mad because it spoke a truth about myself I had previously refused to hear. I got angry because he wrote (in my opinion) in such a way as to rile people up, with a dash of sensationalism and was highly confrontational … on purpose. That’s so not my mercy-gifted style. I was offended because he said a person couldn’t be “lukewarm” and a Christian and then spent two chapters backpedaling and stating all the ways you could be exactly that. (At least that’s how it felt to me.)
And so began one of my recent teachable moments.
And instead of finishing the book the first time, I put it down and never picked it back up. But this time it was a requirement. And I’m pretty good at following the rules. So when I hit the same spot that sent me packing last time, I read on, but felt pessimistic, to say the least.
I’m happy to say I finished the book this time around. And while Francis Chan will never be a favorite author of mine, I am learning some tough lessons about myself because of his writing.
- No person is infallible, and anytime I read a book about God, about faith, about Jesus, I should weigh the words against the truth of the Bible.
- I take Jesus for granted often in my life and in my faith.
- While God invites my questions, I have no right to demand an outlined and indexed explanation.
- I might have been praying about this mission trip all wrong, even though my prayers for safety and health for our team and for our impact sounded so very nice. I was challenged … what if, instead, I was willing to pray for God to do whatever it takes to bring glory to Himself and accomplish His purpose? That’s a dangerous, bold prayer. And I’ve not really been in the habit of praying those kinds of prayers. Especially when the life of myself or my child is involved.
- I learned all of the parts of that book I needed to read were found after the part that made me so mad. God gave me a second chance to get over my “righteous indignation,” which was really just a pretty wrapping for some selfish pride.
When we set off to learn something new, we may not always like what we encounter. We may not agree with every new thought presented to us. (In fact, I hope we don’t because then we’ll never have a sense of identity or truth.) But I pray we remain open to dig into the next lesson and learn what Jesus wants to teach us.
And I might even go read another one of Chan’s books. Because it’s better to feel like my toes have been stepped on than to settle into a life of complacency.It's better to have ouchy toes that have been stepped on than to slip into complacency.Click To Tweet
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