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a lesson learned

26 August 2012
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on august 11, i said the following in a post about the ocean: “tomorrow i’ll share more about how locals here have raised the bar for eating seafood!” that was more than two weeks ago. as it happened, we had an unexpected opportunity to skype with friends in california, so the post about seafood simply didn’t happen. then, for two weeks, every time i thought about writing something, i would remember my promise to post about seafood, and i was immediately uninspired. thus, i have learned a very valuable lesson of blogging: don’t promise to post anything you haven’t already written!

i’m often learning lessons, it seems. a typical scenario involves a convicting sermon or scripture passage, followed by a distinct awareness of my own spiritual immaturity. in these moments when i become aware of a flaw in my character, the common proverb rings in my ears: “now you know, and knowing is half the battle.” (i just learned from the internet that this phrase is from the public service announcements following each episode of g.i. joe!)

the problem is, winning half the battle often seems like enough. i get a glimpse of my inner depravity, feel humbled for a moment, and think: “i really have so far to go on this journey to christian maturity.” but in the next moment, i think: “i’m so glad to have learned this lesson,” as if i’ve fully internalized all that the holy spirit was showing me a few minutes before, and that awareness has cured me. perhaps it comes from over a decade of small group gatherings where we share “what we’ve been learning” — too often it sounds like this:

“last week God was teaching me contentment, and this week i’m learning forgiveness.”

of course none of us consciously believe that we’ve mastered these virtues in a week’s time, but i do think we talk as if the awareness that God is trying to teach us something is synonomous with our having learned it.

c.s. lewis describes the growing awareness of our depravity in a way that i found quite convicting. he says,

“i have been trying to make the reader believe that we actually are, at present, creatures whose character must be, in some respects, a horror to God, as it is, when we really see it, a horror to ourselves. this i believe to be a fact: and i notice that the holier a man is, the more fully he is aware of that fact. perhaps you have imagined that this humility in the saints is a pious illusion at which God smiles. that is a most dangerous error. […] it is practically dangerous because it encourages a man to mistake his first insights into his own corruption for the first beginnings of a halo round his own silly head.” (the problem of pain)

too often i “mistake my first insights into my own corruption” as a sign that i am, in fact, spiritually mature. after all, isn’t that half the battle? i don’t want to be the kind of person who imagines a halo around my own silly head – when i start to see myself as a holy, mature person, it’s all too clear that i am not! so, i’m all for learning lessons. it’s good to be aware of what God’s spirit is trying to impress upon us – but what about the second half of the battle?

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