Have you noticed that some people love to learn?
Last night, a wonderful young guy in our church shared a part of his life/faith story. Part of his talk included his work life as a firefighter and the many classes and special training he has undertaken. Throughout his career, he has been devoted to learning and growing. Not surprisingly, he has continued to advance in the fire department in which he serves. He is now a fire marshall. I suspect he will be intentional about learning and growing for the rest of his life.
Have you noticed that some people continue to grow and develop as ministers, pastors, elders, etc. while others put very little energy into learning?
Madeleine L’Engle, in her book Two-Part Invention, speaks of her early years in the 1920s when she was single and working in the theater. She writes:
One of our roommates came because of the piano. She was a budding musician and filled the apartment with Beethoven, Brahms, and Bach, though after she came I played only when she was around. She grew as she played, not only in technique but in maturity. The great masters pushed her as she tried faithfully to go where they led. We do learn and develop when we are exposed to those who are greater than we are. Perhaps this is the chief way we mature.
I love these lines.
We do learn and develop when we are exposed to those who are greater than we are.
The following are five suggestions for learning from “masters.”
1. Learn from people who can help you grow. On more than one occasion, I have known of situations in which a person with very little experience or training happens to be working with a person who has vast experience and extensive knowledge. The more experienced person attempts to communicate that she is available to help, guide, encourage, etc. but that she is not going to interfere. Then I learn that the less experienced person rarely asks for advice, rarely asks questions, and doesn’t seek to learn. Meanwhile, others within the industry who live in other places are seeking out this person’s counsel. Yes, there can be factors that might prevent a less experienced person from learning from a particular person. However, assuming that none of these factors exist in this situation, why would this person not seek to learn from a more experienced person nearby?
2. Learn from the masters, both past and present. Are there certain people whose works you read in order to learn how they think and process life? In the past, I have focused on particular people during certain seasons. For awhile, I listened (via recording or live presentation) to everything I could find by Fred Craddock, Thomas Long, Gordon MacDonald, Lynn Anderson, etc. At different times, I read everything I could find by Eugene Peterson, Scot McKnight, N. T. Wright, Henri Nouwen, Gordon Fee, William Willimon, Frederick Buechner, Dallas Willard, etc. Basically, I would focus on one person for a period of months and devour everything I could learn from this person. A few months later, I might focus on another author.
3. Choose to spend time with people who are serious about their own growth and development. I love to be with people, regardless of their vocation, who are serious about their growth. People who learn and grow stimulate others who want to learn and grow.
4. Ask questions. Ask older people questions. Ask younger people questions. Ask questions in order to clarify. Ask questions to get another’s perspective and thinking. So much of what I have learned has come after having asked someone a question.
5. Be generous with your resources. Share helpful journals, websites, and books with others. Is there a resource person who has been particularly helpful to you? Share names, ideas, and reading materials. In other words, be a learner who is willing to help others learn.