My grandchildren are five, five, and two so I’ve got a few years to think about this but I was thinking that when they get to the second or third grade I would tell them that every day they would have to tell me one new thing they learned that day.
That’s what those motivational people say. At the end of every day you should be able to look back and think of one new thing you learned that day. That’s how you grow. That’s how you keep your mind active.
That’s good if you are talking about what’s the capital of Bolivia or the seventeenth president of the United States or the political and economic forces that brought about World War I. But some things are not about learning new things. Some learning is about reinforcing what you already know. You may learn one day that seven times seven equals forty-nine but you need more than that. You need paths worn into your gray matter so that seven times seven automatically brings up forty-nine. You need that to learn the next thing. If you’re trying to learn calculus you don’t need to be tiptoeing through the fundamentals of algebra. Some things need to be worn in, grooved, repeated.
I am fascinated by the musicians on the stage during worship at church. they seem so smooth, so natural, so adept at what they do. Great guitarists don’t think about fingerings or chords, or harmony. They think in sounds. Painters don’t struggle with what color mixed with what color makes what color. Writers don’t think about the rules of grammar or punctuation or the fundamentals of plot and character. They think in story.
Our Christian lives are like that. We start out learning the rules, knowing the rules, living the rules. But somewhere along the way we stop thinking about the rules. We find ourselves (hopefully) just living a Christian life. Does that mean there are no rules? Of course not. They are still there. We just don’t think so much about them. They have become natural, automatic. Actually our lives become something more than the rules because we are following the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
There’s an old joke about an accountant who comes in every day and looks in his desk drawer first thing. His fellow workers wonder what’s in there so one day one of them gets up the nerve to look. He finds a note that says ‘credit on the left, debit on the right’. (I may have that backwards. I’m not an accountant.) Some Christians never get past looking in the desk drawer. They live straitjacketed lives. In their zeal to be good Christians they wind up less than they could be. Jesus said, “He who the Son sets free is free indeed.” Jesus wants us to go beyond a regimented set of requirements. He wants us to fly.
I am aware that some would read this and agree, saying that the only rule is to love everybody and many of the old rules should be thrown out. I don’t think the Bible teaches that and I don’t think the Holy Spirit would say that to us. I think the Holy Spirit would lead us into a life that is far more demanding and at the same time far more liberating than just a set of rules would ever do.