Human beings are learning and growing all of the time. Have you ever had a time in your life when you haven't learned anything new or re-learned anything you sort of knew before? To quit learning is to stagnate and to waste away. But the best human beings are those who find something new to learn or do their entire life.
I was thinking of the value of my Christian liberal arts education the other day as I heard a wonderful four-minute segment on Wisconsin Life on public radio. Jeff Snowbarger, a U-W Stevens Point English professor, was sharing the story of his grandfather, who went from his simple farm roots, to being a lifelong learner. The story was so much like my own life that I felt he had captured some universal truth. Late in life when his grandfather lost his wife to, Alzheimer's, he used poetry and song to deal with his loss. His grandson spoke of how his grandfather's being steeped in literature and poetry in his one-room rural Kansas schoolhouse had shaped his life and helped sustain him in his greatest time of need.
I certainly have found that my early education, both in public school and at church, gave me not only tools for coping in life, but a springboard for continual learning throughout my life. When I have suffered loss, such as that of the death of my parents and brother within two years, I have turned to those psalms and Bible verses and hymns I learned in Sunday School and confirmation. I have also found that journaling , as well as even dabbing into poetry, has offered strength for my soul. But in order to return to the well for sustenance I have had to keep up my learning. I could not write a poem unless I referenced a source on rhyming and the essence of poetry. I probably first learned these basics in the class where I wrote my first poem on the Packers Ice Bowl in freshman English in 1967,. Still, because of my learning then, I could tap those resources and refresh and renew.
As children were sent to a new school year today, we adults who have long since left formal education may be envious. Just think of what life lessons in learning they will set out upon today and in the days to come. There is something about the beginning of everything, learning the basics, that is thrilling! Yet we who have been through many transitions know that there is just as much learning in the lessons we have learned in life. We also know that those teachers, those mentors in life and faith, still are with us, leading us to learn even more.
As Christians we are never done learning and growing as well. Each week in worship we share a bit of Scripture cut out of the fabric of God's Word. Those readings and the words we share in a sermon can be a springboard for learning and growing throughout the week. Pick up a devotional book like Christ in Our Home and you can reflect on those texts throughout the week. Go to a study or book or discussion group and fairly soon you will think you are back in school. Reflect on the events of the week with your friends, and listen even more than you talk, and you will discover you are right back in school.
I was blessed with an education that began in a small town rural school but took me to two wonderful liberal arts colleges-- St. Olaf and Marquette. But,regardless of your background, you have had a lifetime of learning and growing yourself. What's your story? Who was important to you? How do you still drink at the wells of those who went before you, and showed you the way?
"But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 3:18)