Monday, October 7, 2013

"Learned? Schmearned!"

Education is important. 

It is valuable and something to be attained.

And it comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colors... formally and informally... and frankly, can be attained in a probably infinite number of ways.

I truly believe seeking an education is a worthy pursuit - after all I'm an educator! A special educator, nonetheless - striving to help people who find learning to be a challenge learn and develop necessary life and school skills. Much of my ministry includes literacy work, teacher training and leading Bible studies.

Yet this "idea" that unless an individual can write out some letters behind their name, that s/he is somehow under qualified... or less able... even less worthy or less integral... than another who has said diploma framed on the wall and who gets to spell out those letters when they sign their name?

But when it was now the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and [began to] teach. The Jews then were astonished, saying, "How has this man become learned, having never been educated?" (John 7.14-15)
Apparently this same mindset afflicted people back in the time of Jesus as well....

Jesus' ability to teach and explain totally befuddled the Jews and, in their mind, discounted or invalidated what he was saying. We ran into this "problem" many times while working in West Africa - churches not allowing individuals into positions of leadership until they had schooling... and individuals using their lack of training and formal education as an excuse not to help with the Sunday School program or disciple a new believer in the church.

I would sometimes get so frustrated preparing to teach Bible study - because what I wanted more than anything else was for the women to share what they saw and understood from a passage of Scripture... not just to parrot back what I was seeing and understanding. It took over 5 years of working with the same group of six women before a couple of them started to really grasp the idea that their contributions were valuable, even when they were different from mine. In fact, their applications and cultural understandings sometimes were far deeper than my own - and some of those women had NEVER been to school, much less Bible school. Half of them couldn't even read.

It seems like we often have a problem trusting the Holy Spirit to teach as well as our schooled Bible educators, pastors, church leaders...??? Or that mere men and women could never learn as well from God, at least not as they can from mere men and women. Anyone see the irony in that not so subtle mindset?

And,this sort of mindset isn't something the rest of us are "above...," simply because we don't consider ourselves professional teachers. We can be quite "Pharisaical" and actually consider it a good thing.

I started thinking and the Lord brought to mind the followings questions to ask myself ~ 

What about the single gal who gave me a suggestion about how to help my child through a difficulty? Could she possibly have any wisdom to offer since she has never walked shod in the shoes of parenthood?

Or what about the mama of three who explains to me how to better keep up with my laundry? What in the world would this lady know about juggling a schedule of eight while being on the road a good part of the time?

Or that old unmarried "uncle" who gently encouraged me to serve my husband with a happy heart rather than complaining to other female women? How in the world could he understand what it meant to be a woman? a wife? or to keep up with what the world has deemed a wife's responsibilities?

Or my child reminding me that I just uttered a word she knows she's not permitted to use? Do I get defensive? Or do I accept that lesson and apologize? 


Sometimes, in human arrogance, I assume I know best - and act practically as though I even know better than the Lord. I come up with a list of qualifications and only certain ones who have met those standards can be my teachers (or the teachers of others). I establish all sorts of hoops to jump through before becoming qualified. And I can rapidly and emphatically disqualify some from any sort of possible future contribution because of past sins and failures -

- forgetting to remember that those who've gained victory and learned to depend on the Lord through those hard lessons have so much to contribute. Those who've had to fight for every bit of formal Bible education they have (even when it is nothing more than learning to read at the age of 70 so she can decode the words in a children's primer Bible) have the opportunity to show me things I could never see, as my education has been handed me on a silver platter.

Can you think of someone you disregard or not who's possible contribution you do not value right now, because of their lack of status or lack of education?

How can we encourage ourselves and other to recognize the beautiful gifts and diversity of "education" and amazing back stories of others as something to be valued and treasured and shared with the rest of His Church?

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