School Days

Busses are running, football is in the air and parents throughout the nation are subtly releasing a sigh of relief. School is back in session! There are mixed emotions but it is, in this country, a culturally accepted norm that schedule and structure in learning get back to it at this time of the year.

It is interesting that, in our country, learning is this stilted, choreographed and somewhat standardized exercise in which we are expected to participate. Students (a defined demographic) begin at a certain time, end at a certain time and, barring “bad weather days”, go to learning institutions in geographic settings tailored for the process of formalized education. This paradigm applies for a certain number of days and years until one graduates, either to “higher learning” (a misnomer if there ever was one) or a change of venue involving the application of said learning… sometimes (it is still amazing how many college majors have little or nothing to do with the actual employ to which graduates hire out). All of these parameters are fairly well defined and somewhat constrained by cultural norms and government guidelines to the degree that learning seems to be boxed up in a neat little package we call “an education.”

However, learning itself does not easily fit into this box. We are constantly learning (if we are breathing), which cannot be confined to a time or limited by geography. This has become more obvious as we Americans become less local and more global. Alternative school settings, internet connectivity with accredited learning institutions and technical degrees have begun to erode the leaning box, causing many employers to rethink the standards by which they judge someone qualified for employ.

The novelty in this breaking down of learning barriers is not strange to godliness. It has always been the case the God intends for us to learn for the duration of our life; to some degree, it defines living. The mistaken notion of thinking of learning in terms of a time-confined, geographic-specific exercise of the gray-matter is not a spiritual notion. It has been successfully argued that our methods of secular teaching should include or even emphasize the process of learning as much or more than the raw data we disseminate. That is more what comes to mind when considering a spiritual education.

Such artificial limitations on learning as time and space, unfortunately, deters some Christians of their potential to grow. The church assembly becomes the spiritual education institution and the church building the geographic classroom; it is the only time their Bible impacts their life. An educating process is expected when the church assembles in a building (1 Corinthians 14:26) but it is not the assembly’s sole, or even primary, purpose; we assemble to worship God (John 4:23-24). Paul encouraged the Roman church to be constantly changing for the better. “…do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). This shatters the artificial boundaries often imposed in discussing a “formal education.” The Christian is ever learning, ever changing, ever growing. Learning about God is not confined to “school days,” but is an active pursuit all the days of our life in every location. Adopting this attitude is the only way we will pass the final.

Jeff Sweeten