October 1, 2009

Being teachable is key to learning

I’ve been a long time understanding that teachable people are those who realize that they don’t know everything. Academically, I could say that I don’t know it all, but practically have often acted like it. Like Job, the wake up call comes from God.

Job was the object of a faith test. He didn’t know it. All he knew was that almost everything dear to him had been destroyed or taken, including his health. He was upset and wishing he had not been born. His friends came to him with accusations. In the theology of their day, they assumed that God blessed the righteous (which He does) and punished the wicked (which He also does). For that reason, Job must have done something wrong.

Job insisted that he was unaware of sinning against God in a specific sense. He ranted for pages of his innocence and that God was silent and not explaining Himself. His friends held their ground. He must have done something to merit the state that he was in.

Finally a younger man came and opened the idea that God is God. Then the Lord Himself spoke. He pointed Job to His creative power, giving him a long look at all that He had done and could do. Job was shattered. He realized that his rant was mere blabbering. He said:

I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. . . . I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:1-6)
Job thought he understood God. This is why his circumstances made no sense to Him. God showed him that he didn’t understand much of anything. Job wisely realized this is true and repented of his rash attitude. Then God restored to him what he had lost.

The Bible does not say that Job had a know-it-all attitude before all this happened to him or that God used dire circumstances to change him. In fact, God actually said that Job was a righteous man, upright in all he did. Yet Job learned from his experience and humbled himself before God, admitting that God had reasons for what happened in his life and that all God did was “too wonderful” for him. He used this word in the sense of “full of wonder.”

When people expressed curiosity about God’s purposes or struggle with what God has in mind as things happen in their lives, I used to try to figure it out as if I knew the mind of God. Life, and reading the book of Job, shows me the folly of such presumption, even the sin of it. Who am I to understand what God is doing? His ways are higher than our ways!

Yet the oddest thing happens when I’m willing to admit my vanity. God begins to reveal to me more about Himself and lets me in on what He is doing. Like Job, when He shows me how little I understand, then I begin to see the wonder of who He is and what He can do.

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