“What did you learn at church today?”
I know his answer isn’t true. I know he heard the Word of God preached; I know his class taught him the Bible. Nevertheless, this is what my son said after church last Sunday. It’s not the first time I’ve heard him say it.
I narrow my eyes and look at him. I think about what to say next.
I’m a recovering information addict.
I was born a naturally curious person. I like to read books and articles on a variety of topics. I love to keep up with current events and politics. I enjoy the rush of learning something I previously did not know.
It may sound odd, but I found pleasure in storing away information and being able to call upon it. I almost felt a weird sense of power in remembering things I had read.
When I began to truly grasp the gospel and grow spiritually, I was a teenager. I called upon my love of information as I read the Bible. I found new truths and applications at every single turn. I would read my Bible before I went to bed each night, and I would get wide-eyed at learning new things. It was an exciting time in my spiritual development.
Sermons and studies were another wide open discovery. I read voraciously and listened to countless sermons. I learned and learned.
But, eventually, somewhere along the way between teenage faith and graduate theological education, my discovery process began to slow. I was still learning new things, but I began to find myself thinking, “I’ve already heard this before.” My heart changed when I would hear a sermon. I would think, “That’s not how I would have approached this topic.”
The weight of knowledge had, in an odd way, weighed down my heart. Knowledge puffs up, indeed. (1 Cor. 8:1)
When spiritual growth is synonymous with amassing knowledge, any slowing in “learning” is crippling.
First, there are questions. Am I reading the right people? Maybe there are other places to look. Next, there are doubts. Is this all there is to is? Maybe it’s a sham. Spiritual dryness follows closely behind, often coupled with the discovery of other theologies that promise new and exciting takes on the thing you believe you have mastered.
Thank God for what Jared Wilson calls gospel wakefulness.
I had made knowledge an idol, and I was in pursuit of something that would never please. I did not notice that, like Augustine, I had traveled down roads of education, searching for something I had long known. I had not pursued pagan philosophy; instead I had worn myself out in the search for a theology that would surpass my previous discovery, a theology that would show me the superiority of my spiritual prowess.
When God awakened me to my sin and the debt that had been forgiven on Calvary, when the gospel began to become real to me again, when I realized that what God had done in Jesus was indeed enough and better—it was then that my heart was rectified.
I stopped pursuing the relentless push of the newest approach and began plumbing the depths of the truth I had heard since I was a child.
It was like exchanging a chemical orange soda for freshly squeezed orange juice—truly refreshing.
My spiritual life was transformed when I began to see everything through the lens of what God did in Jesus. I discovered that it was a bottomless well, an endless treasure, an infinitude of discovery in itself. The thing I had most wanted—new discovery—was present all along in the person of Jesus Christ.
That’s why I don’t get concerned when my son says he hasn’t learned anything new. I simply probe to find the passage that he studied, and then I turn it to the beautiful work of God in Jesus.
My son is learning a lot these days. He’s in his teens. He’s reading voraciously. Like his father, he loves to learn something new.
My prayer is that he will awaken to the gospel earlier than I did.
I want him to find the beauty of learning from the same Story over and over and over.
I want him to learn the beauty of not learning anything new but instead rediscovering the old.