21 Years of Learning

Today is my 21st birthday and over these past 21 years I’ve learned many things. Some of these things I’ve had to learn in difficult ways, others I’ve gained by listening to those with more life experience than myself. I still have much to learn, but as I grow it’s my hope that I will be able to share wisdom and love as I seek wisdom and love. In the past 21 years I’ve learned that:

It is important to love your body. Loving your body is not only being content with your image and the way God has made you, but it is treating your body with care. Eating well, exercising consistently, sleeping normally, and not putting things into your body that do not belong there are all pieces to loving your body. We are blessed with one body and the way we treat it matters.

Money is not worth as much as people say it is. Money is useful, but not of the greatest value. Wealth is a burden I hope to carry as little as possible.

People matter more than doctrine. I learned this from a Jewish rabbi. He was a little unorthodox and challenged the beliefs of a lot of formal theologians, but the way he treated those who orthodoxy tended to crush and oppress was astonishing. Not only did he convince those he interacted with to adopt his way, but he also caused them to share his teaching throughout their communities. This rabbi has made me willing to stretch the bounds of orthodoxy to include those at the table who wouldn’t otherwise have a place. This rabbi’s name is Jesus.

Just because something is true does not mean you ought to say it. This is one of those I had to learn the hard way. Truth must partner with grace, wisdom must partner with love.

I must balance the confidence that I can do anything, with the humility that acknowledges that I’m inadequately suited to do everything. This is a hard one. I’ve found most of us Christians tend to lean one way or the other. Either we’re complete sinners incapable of doing anything, which can produce moral inertia. Or we’re saints of God empowered to do everything and anything, which can produce egotistical self-deception. Both are incomplete on their own.

The world is an incredibly beautiful place with beautiful people. The world is also an immensely dark place full of deep tragedy. I don’t really understand how it can be both all the time but it seems to be that way.

It is important to take the hard classes. It will be challenging but you will grow immensely because of it. This applies not only to the academic realm but all of life. Be willing to work hard and consistently to achieve beauty, peace, love, and justice.

Intentional effort must be put into hearing the stories of those who are suffering and oppressed. To be unable to see beyond our own appetites into the pain of the other is a weakness remedied only by the Breath of Yahweh

Love is not complete unless it’s shared. I would actually hesitate to call it love if it’s not shared. Love is the epicenter that true Christian faith radiates from, and as a pilgrim along the Way established by the Christ, I find it of utmost importance to continually seek to love more fully and rightly. To withhold love from another human because of their religion, race, economic standing, sexual orientation, nationality, appearance, class, language, or anything else is to fall short of what love is. Love is not tolerance, tolerance is a flimsy substitute a weak society clings to because of its unwillingness to embody the selflessness that love costs. Love wages war against injustice, cruelty, and arrogance amongst humans, even at great cost, while building justice, mercy and humility in partnership with God.

I am learning that God is ____. This blank signifies a word I have not discovered yet, only experienced. It’s a word that embodies many words such as “other, awe, deep, love, fierce, beyond, present, powerful, and humble”. To think that Christians own this God and must gift this God to all tribes unlike our own seems exceedingly ignorant and foolish. This God is the owner of all things and is forever breaking into human history in magnificent ways as well as humble ways. I am fully convinced that this God was explicitly reveled in Jesus, but I am not convinced that my language, generation, nationality, or cultural inheritance grants me more privilege or access to following this God. The God I follow is big and at work in all time at all places. As a Christian my call is to partner with all nations, humbly inviting them into God’s baptism, and journeying with them as we seek to obey all that God has commanded us to do. As the wise Mr. Beaver once said, “He’ll be coming and going. One day you’ll see him and another you won’t. He doesn’t like being tied down–and of course he has other countries to attend to. It’s quite all right. He’ll often drop in. Only you mustn’t press him. He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.”

By no means have I mastered any of these things in 21 years, but I have learned that they are essential to life.