One of the marks of a person who continues well on his or her spiritual journey is the commitment to life-long learning. A disciple by definition is a learner—one who chooses to follow wiser people. A core attitude of one who finishes well is the person’s conviction to never stop learning. To stop learning is to stop living (at least experientially). The Apostle Paul is one of a choice few biblical characters that maintained an aggressive learning posture to the end of his life—we should all hope to finish as well!
In the last blog we noted that Paul started well as a disciple of Gamaliel—the foremost Hebrew thinker and teacher of his day. Surely Paul’s early days of understanding foundational truth built the disciplines and the boundaries for further learning. After Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus his categories of understanding were shaken. Nothing learned was wasted but all he had learned needed to be seen through a corrected lens.
When I turned 40 I needed corrective eyeglasses to see clearly. For the ability to see accurately one of these conditions may need correction:
- Myopia (nearsighted or ability to see things up close but not at a distance); could correspond to lack of imagination or foresight.
- Hyperopia (farsighted or the ability to see things at a distance but not up close); could correspond to lack of perception of interpersonal clues or attention to details.
- Astigmatism (blurring or distortion); could correspond to understanding partially but missing key insights.
- Presbyopia (old eye or loss of elasticity); could correspond to becoming too set in certain ways and unable or unwilling to stretch one’s learning in new ways.
To Paul’s credit and our benefit he took the needed time to correct his early learning with the new reality of Jesus. We learn in Galatians 1:11-18 that Paul went away to Arabia for three years to wrestle with what he had been taught and align it with his new found faith. This concentrated time of reflection resulted in correcting his astigmatism.
Over the next roughly 30 years Paul followed the leading of the Holy Spirit as a light to the Gentiles, pioneering new communities of believers where local laborers and leaders were nurtured. He served as a mobile alongsider to these communities through visits, writing letters, and sending resource people. Throughout this time he would disengage for reflection, dialogue, and certainly for learning, to bring any needed correction to myopia and hyperopia that could naturally have developed.
Space will not allow for a more detailed look at Paul’s learning posture throughout life. But, in 2 Timothy 4:13 we learn that when he was in jail near the end of his earthly life what he wanted most were the parchments along with his books. These documents were what fed his soul and guided his teaching. He also wanted to connect with key people so to encourage and influence them to continue well. He was so concerned about fulfilling his calling and serving the churches he helped to start and grow that he actively sought to learn and teach to the end of his life. This posture enabled him to correct any presbyopia that sought to hinder him from finishing well.
How about you? How active are you in your learning posture? Are you continuing well? What convictions and habits have you developed so to finish your spiritual journey well? Give attention to the kinds of diseases that will hinder your perspective. Take corrective action now so you can continue to learn tomorrow.
Next Blog: Paul led by teaching