Life-Long Learner

I fancy myself a life-long learner. I listen, observe, read, think and think some more. My love and interest in people is matched fairly evenly with my love of ideas. I’ve nurtured my passions for people and ideas over the years, but I think I was genetically wired with these passions from birth. When they met I’m sure my mom veered more towards people and my dad more towards ideas, but after years together they were balanced out by each other. They were the soil where I took root.

I’ve always seen the Christian faith as ideas in action. I’m leery of Christian activism without thought, and God knows there is a lot of it, but I’m equally leery of Christian thought without action. Jesus came as an embodied word that took action.

What does it mean when Jesus tells us to be gentle as doves but wise as serpents? I like what Lewis said, “God wants a child’s heart, but a grown-ups head.”

Lewis recognized that we have differing mental capacities and added, “It is, of course quite true that God will not love you any less, or have less use for you, if you happen to have been born with a very second rate brain. He has room for people with very little sense, but He wants everyone to use the sense they have.”

Way back in the 1930’s, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose home life and formal education were infused with critical thinking, observed a certain breezy mental laziness in American students at Union Seminary, “they talk a blue streak without the slightest substantive foundation and with no evidence of any criteria.”

The general state of American intellectual life has worsened since then, with ever diminishing intellectual expectations, and the evangelical movement in which I was raised, though it can now boast numerous universities and seminaries, is swimming in these waters of cultural anti-intellectualism and too often mirroring them.

Our churches are too often celebrity and entertainment driven. Too few churches are characterized by the synergistic spiritual, intellectual and creative depth one would expect as a reflection of people created in Gods image and seeking to glorify God through becoming the highest and best, fullest expression of God’s presence in their lives.

Even had it been technologically possible during the enlightenment, I do not believe Facebook or twitter would have held any appeal. Those people were questing for more knowledge and reasonable dialogue, not for clever quips and an ever-expanding universe of casual acquaintances.

What the heck has gotten into Dick Staub that he is on this quasi-rant, you ask?

Well here is the story. In the shower this morning I was weary of wrestling with certain questions I’ve been thinking about for years; questions that may have no answers in this life, yet questions being asked by today’s seekers. I wanted to let go of those questions, settle back and relax in my answerless state.

But then I got this clear sense that I am supposed to relax, but I am also supposed to keep wrestling with the questions.

I was reminded of a funny story River Jordan told in her book, Praying for Strangers. She asked an 87 year-old woman, a retired physician and formidable presence, what she needed prayer for.

“I’m having trouble with my daughter. She won’t listen to anything I tell her.”

“Your daughter?” River asked.

She nodded her head and said, “She’s sixty-nine and thinks she knows everything. I tell her and I tell her but she won’t listen to a word I say. Nothing I tell you. I’m so tired of trying to tell her!”

At first I laughed at the folly of a mom who should have set her daughter loose 50 years ago.

But then I envisioned the mother as God trying to get through to me and seeing me as someone who just would not learn.

And then I got a message loud and clear. I am called to be a life-long learner, and life-long learners don’t get to retire from learning.



Posted in Staublog in September 15, 2011 by | 4 Comments »

4 Responses to Life-Long Learner

  1. ST091511 | Dick Staub on September 15, 2011 at 9:15 am

    […] I am called to be a life-long learner, and life-long learners don’t get to retire.Read More […]

  2. Mark Abbott on September 15, 2011 at 10:54 am

    I think one can “retire” but not quit learning or serving. As I contemplated retiring from full-time pastoral ministry, I heard loud and clear that my call to ministry had not ceased. This fall, I am semi-commuting between Seattle and the Boise, ID area to be a short-term interim pastor.

  3. Dick Staub on September 15, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Good clarification, I meant “don’t get to retire from learning!” (I’m going to edit the post to read that way! Thanks Mark!)

  4. Jason DesLongchamp on September 15, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    I have a similar struggle. I am constantly seeking answers to the big questions of our faith. I just finished Robert Capon’s 3-volume work on the parables, where he offers a lot of unfamiliar answers to common Christian questions that I really, really liked. But then I’d go back to the same verses and have the same questions, even though I’m aware of what the answers are. I ask, “Yeah, but which answer is right?” When do you settle on an answer when people you love and respect offer such conflicting explanations? It might be tough to grasp without specifics, but I just thought I’d put that out there.

    I love your mind Mr. Staub, thank you for the gift of your books and this blog!

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