“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” —John Wooden
Not long ago, I overhead two people talking. Don’t worry, I don’t eavesdrop on everyone; these two were pretty loud, so I just paid attention. One was telling the other that they needed to study something. The friend responded, “You’re studying?! Why? I thought you graduated from the need to study anymore?!” They both laughed. Though it was a joke, I think it sums up the average perspective on learning.
I have vivid memories of not being teachable in grade school, except I hadn’t graduated yet—from anything. If being unteachable is an attitude, I wore it proudly as I sat in my classes thinking I knew too much to learn anything from textbooks and math equations. Ouch, just writing that sentence makes me cringe.
When I gave my life to Christ, I remember not only being filled with immense gratitude for His forgiveness and grace, but also being given a hunger to learn. It was an entirely novel experience. All of a sudden, I felt awakened to how much I did not know. The desire to know Jesus, His Words, and His Spirit increased a deep appreciation for how many facets of life I had so much to learn from. I think part of what the Spirit within awakens is a sense of hunger for all that this life God created has to offer.
In a sense, the hunger to learn is the awareness that life is far more complex than any of us can truly appreciate in the time we have. This means we are invited to the adventure of learning and growing, no matter where we are.
Perhaps this is why David taught his son, Solomon, the key principle of cultivating a teachable spirit when he said, “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.” Proverbs 4:7 ESV. David was telling Solomon to never stop learning and to grow a passion for discovering new things, new insights, new skills, new depths of understanding.
I used to think that once I completed my degree(s), I would be finished learning. I wish I was joking. It wasn’t an overt thought, but more of a subconscious one that would crop up whenever I felt deep disappointment realizing I needed to learn something new. That didn’t change until I found myself in a seminary course where one of my professors illustrated what happens when we learn and remain teachable. Commitment to teachability helps us not only master what we have set out to learn, but we simultaneously become aware of how much there is that we do not yet know.
The fall is a season of students going back to school. I wonder, what is one area in which we can intentionally become students? It could be diving into a particular book within the Scriptures. Or devoting ourselves to learning a spiritual discipline. Or increasing our relational wisdom by reading a good book on marriage, parenting, leading, or communication.
Whatever it may be, may we take steps toward getting wisdom, and whatever we get, let’s get insight.