Thursday, April 23, 2015

#tbt

So, for some time now, I have wanted to start posting a regular feature (and by 'regular' I mean - 'every so often,' which may or may not be an accurate rendering of the word 'regular' but is nevertheless precisely what I mean by it) on the site in which I take the ever popular "Throwback Thursday" theme and go back to past posts, papers, opinions, theological understandings, and see how, or if, my own thoughts, or the realities of life, have changed over time. 

I think this is a useful exercise for everyone.  If you haven't changed your mind about anything in the last year...or fifteen years...or fifty years...you are probably either extraordinarily stubborn, or dead.  Or both.

We are meant to be beings who grow, mature, change, evolve, and transform.  That is how our Creator God created us.  We're not supposed to be the same at 79 as we were at 59...or 39...or 19...or 9...

The author of Hebrews says that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).  I think she's right.  But that doesn't mean we are supposed to be the same.  We must, as Paul writes, "grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ" (Ephesians 4:15). 

It is the same reason why we are not called to "just be faithful" as one pastor I know used to say with somewhat irritating frequency, but instead we are called to be faithful and fruitful.  As Jesus said, "I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last" (John 15:16).

We can't bear fruit - much less fruit that will last - if we are not ourselves alive and growing.  As another pastor I know used to say with somewhat irritating frequency, "anything that's alive will grow, and anything that doesn't grow is dead."

Faith is not supposed to be a 'constant' in our lives.  It is precisely the opposite - faith is the edges at which we grow, stretch, learn, and are transformed.  Anti-learning, anti-educational faith is an oxymoron.  True faith bears fruit; if everything you think is exactly the same as it was a decade ago, you aren't bearing fruit in your own life, let alone in anyone else's.

I reflect on this because today I found myself looking back to 1999 and my undergraduate work during my one on ground term at Northwest NazareneUniversity.  Yes, I did attend NNU on ground.  There are many stories about that but they aren't the subject for today.

I decided to dig around in my file folders to see what I classes I took and what I learned during my time at NNU.  I was particularly interested in the folder labeled "PT 321 - Spiritual Formation."  This was a class I had with Professor Gary Waller.  Great guy.  And this was long before I really understood "spiritual formation," much less had an M.Div. in which I specialized in it!

So I opened up my first reflection paper to see what I had written.

Wow.

I do not think the same ways as I used to think, 16 years ago.

And I am so thankful for that!

I found myself asking, "who is this guy?"

And you know why I think differently now?  Because all these years, I have been continually learning and educated.

It has come to my attention in recent days that some people cannot understand the difference between education and indoctrination.  Some feel that some of our universities are improperly indoctrinating our kids.  But it is not that they want our universities to educate instead of indoctrinate.  It is instead that they want our universities to indoctrinate their way.  But that is not  what education and higher learning (or any learning) are about. 

Education isn't supposed to teach you what to think, but instead it is supposed to teach you how to think.  This is true at even the youngest, most basic and elementary levels of learning.  Of course, we do, and should, learn content along the way.  But the content (what we learn) is not usually the main point.  The context (how we think, how it changes us) is what ultimately matters.

Back in 1999, I was reading and reflecting on a text, and I was totally obsessed with the rightness or wrongness of the content, and never for a second took into consideration the context in which it was offered. 

It's not that it was bad to have concern for the rightness or wrongness of the content.  On the contrary, we very much ought to evaluate content and make decisions about whether we agree or disagree with it.

But without context, without allowing myself to learn and be shaped by the experience in terms of how I think and how I should (or shouldn't) be changed as a result, I wasn't going to ever learn, change, or grow.

It's a good thing I stuck with it.  I looked at my final project for that class next.  And while I kind of chuckle now at the simplicity of it (I imagine myself attempting to turn is something like that today - scary!), I also recognized some growing edges as well as some talent and ability that had come to the forefront over a semester's time (after 3-1/2 years away from college).  I was learning how to think, learning to understand context, and learning how to use my words to better articulate what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. 

And I am still learning today.  Sadly, many Christians are not.  Some even, as I suggested earlier, actively campaign against education and learning.  But that is not what God calls us to.

God calls us to learn.

God calls us to think.

God calls us to process.

God calls us to change.

God calls us to be transformed.

In future editions of #tbt, I will dig up and post specific content and allow younger me to hash it out with older me.  I hope you will join me on the journey and hash it out with me. 

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