Why Can’t They Learn From Our Mistakes? (The difference between instruction and discipling)
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 So Moses wrote down God’s Law and gave it to the levitical priests, who were in charge of the LORD’S Covenant Box, and to the leaders of Israel. 10 He commanded them, “At the end of every seven years, when the year that debts are canceled comes around, read this aloud at the Festival of Shelters. 11 Read it to the people of Israel when they come to worship the LORD your God at the one place of worship. 12 Call together all the men, women, and children, and the foreigners who live in your towns, so that everyone may hear it and learn to honor the LORD your God and to obey his teachings faithfully. 13 In this way your descendants who have never heard the Law of the LORD your God will hear it. And so they will learn to obey him as long as they live in the land that you are about to occupy across the Jordan.”
Deuteronomy 31:9-13 (TEV)
The word of God is creative; and the Word he said, once and for all,
to human beings couldn’t be other but the Word made flesh, his Son, Jesus Christ.
Our lives are long enough to learn what we need to learn, but not long enough to change anything. That is our flaw. Each age must learn everything afresh. Such waste!
Such waste – making all the mistakes once and again, each generation making the same mistakes, fumbling in ignorance and darkness.
This oak was already old when I was born. Now I am old and soon to die, and this tree grows strong still.
We are small creatures. Our lives are not long, but long enough to learn.
There are times that preaching and teaching becomes tedious. It seems like we do the same thing, over and over, year in and year out. Sure, we use different words, but the story is the same.
But there is a time where you wish people would learn the lesson, internalizing it. making it part of who they are. There is also a time where those who teach wish that each succeeding generation would be able to hear and learn from those who went before them, not having to watch them make the same mistake generation after generation.
Or deal with the same issues.
Lawhead’s comments in green above brought me back to that thought. My generation struggled with extremes. Topics like the role of women in the church, or what is appropriate in worship (from music to dress), struggles theologically, it was so easy to become blown this way or that depending on who was teaching.
It seems vain, and without impact, as we didn’t see all that much change possible in the world. We could learn, or we could help, but neither left an impact on us, what hope do we have to pas this down to the next generation.
Which brings me to Pope Francis’s words, and the amazing insight in them. We give the same lesson over and over because the place where it is best learned is that place of brokenness we all inhabit. The valley of tears, where guilt and shame haunt us, and we need God to intervene in our lives.
Why does each generation have to deal with the same arguments, the same battles, the same sins over and over? BEcause it is in those paradoxical places, being blown about, struggling, we find out He is our rock, He is our anchor, He is our peace.
And that is the difference between a sermon that instructs your people and a message to those you are discipling. One promises hope, the other guides them into discovering it, and seeing God reveal it to them. The result is that their voices praise Him from the soul, and their hearing and the reaction of obedience is something natural, not something forced.
The people that we guide through life, each and every generation have to deal with the same issues, the same struggles, the same questions that plunge the paradoxes of our faith.
But we need to know the paradoxes are not the final issue and not the final battle. We need to discover the Lord who is deeper, the Lord who is greater, the Lord whose love goes beyond the dimensions we can explore. But exploring those dimension, that is where life is found.
And that is a trip you can only take from the point of brokenness… and each person, and each generation must deal with that brokenness…
Lord, help those on the journey be patient with those who are beginning it. Lord, help us see the struggles that we have, not as something to deny or hide, but help us look for those who will point to You, and remind us of that which is greater than our struggle. AMEN!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 113). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/ (for this day March 30