Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Learning in layers

Do you ever find yourself learning something that you thought you already knew? I hope I'm not the only one who does that. A life lesson comes my way and I think, "I can handle this. I've done this before," and then I realize that while I may know what to do, I don't know what to do.

Let me give you an example. A long time ago, my head learned that part of being in relationships with people was learning to trust, and that the key to trusting people was knowing that you can trust God. Even if we wind up getting hurt, God can (and will) be with us through it, so even when trust is betrayed (and it will be), we can still stay in relationship with people because we trust God.

Another example? Joy is not the same as happiness. Joy is something we can choose no matter what is going on around us; happiness depends on circumstances.

One more? There's a difference between thanking God for what he's done and praising God for who he is. I know that. I try to practice that daily, but I still find myself looking for circumstances in my life to reinforce what I think God would/should/could be doing for me.

It's easy for the head to learn. Harder for the heart.

And for years, those have been my two big categories of knowledge: head knowledge and heart knowledge. There have been many times I've learned something intellectually but had trouble living in line with it. My head knew what the truth was, but my heart just wasn't in line with it. Heart knowledge was when I not only knew the right thing, but it felt right to make that choice even if I didn't want to. The questions were answered; I knew I needed to and wanted to do what my head knew was true.

Lately, though, I've been considering an even deeper level of knowledge: soul knowledge. Soul knowledge is when something is so much a part of you that you can't not live in line with it. It isn't just giving mental assent or making a choice to live in line with it because you want to do the right thing. It's deep. Intrinsic. Core-of-being-essence-of-personhood knowledge.

I don't know what the process is of moving something from head to heart to soul knowledge. Experience and practice is part of it. Like removing the layers of an onion or artichoke, there is also a certain amount of cutting away of unnecessary things. Things like pride. Rights. Ease. Fear. Comfort.

Maybe . . . just maybe . . . when our head knowledge and soul knowledge become the same, our hearts are also in line. Maybe the difficulty in saying "no" to something because we know it isn't best will no longer be there. Maybe the struggle Paul describes in Romans 7 will cease:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law.
Let's just hang onto that last line. I want that.

For in my inner being I delight in God's law.


Sheila said...

And in my inner being I delight in reading this. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

We are living beings, and living beings change slowly, over time. Hard to accept in this instant culture, and I think the church does not emphasize it nearly enough, nor does it teach ways to get more of the truth (knowledge) into our souls....But God finds ways to do it when we want it, even if we don't have a clue how it's to happen.

Seek and you shall find; I've found it to be true!

Stephanie said...

Learning and growing is hard work, isn't it?