Even masters never stop learning

Have you ever seen the work of a master artist? I don’t know a lot about art, and I know even less about painting, but it’s one of the arts that takes my breath away. I would watch the Joy of Painting for hours, just marveling at how Bob Ross could take a paint brush and some colors and transform a blank canvas into a gorgeous landscape (happy little trees and all their friends included).

What’s really amazing to me is that the masters I know understand that they don’t know everything. The true masters realize that they always have something new to learn. Since we’re talking art, let’s talk about Michelangelo. No, not the Ninja Turtle. The artist. He’s known for a few minor, insignificant things like the statue of David (the one missing the arms) and the Sistine Chapel. No, he’s not really well known.

Yes, I’m being sarcastic. Michelangelo is one of the greatest artists of all time. Yet, one of the sketches he was working on late in his 80s had a phrase written on it: “I am still learning.” Imagine. Michelangelo, one of the greatest, most accomplished, most recognized artists in all history, and as far as he was concerned, he was still a student.

Chapelle_sixtine_plafondToday’s verses are Proverbs 9:8-9.

So don’t bother correcting mockers;
they will only hate you.
But correct the wise,
and they will love you.
Instruct the wise,
and they will be even wiser.
Teach the righteous,
and they will learn even more.

I do believe there is a difference between knowledge and wisdom, but if your search for either of them is grounded in God’s Word, you can’t go wrong. And it’s good to have both, because the Bible often says having both is best. But the best indication of a wise person is that they’re teachable.

Being teachable can be tough. Face it, learning stuff is hard work, and for independent thinkers who like to do things their own way, following class instructions or a teacher’s syllabus can be very frustrating. But for many things in life, there really is only one way, and you have to learn it somewhere.

For a minute, just put yourself in Michelangelo’s shoes (or sandals or whatever people back then wore). This man had painted detailed imagery across the walls and ceilings of a giant cathedral. He’d carved incredible statues and sculptures that retain their priceless value even today. If anyone could have pushed back his chair and declared himself all-knowing on a subject, it was him. But did he do that? No! He declared that he was still learning.

So if a master painter like Michelangelo could be okay with still learning, why can’t we be okay with it too? Is there some great looming deadline hanging over our heads where we need to reach omniscience–or at least subject matter expert status? If there is, it’s a bad idea. You can know a lot about a lot of things, but you’ll never know everything.

Sorry. That’s just the way it works. You will never stop finding things you don’t know, but you can stop learning.

You don’t have to keep learning. You are perfectly free to shut your brain off and glide through life on the accumulated knowledge you built up in high school and college. It’s your choice whether or not to learn. But let’s make one fact very clear: Just because you decide to stop learning doesn’t mean you’ll automatically have all the answers. In fact, you’ll probably find that you have fewer answers than before.

And I’m not talking about being a professional student. There is such a thing as too much education. But don’t ever get it in your head that you know it all, because the moment you do, God will send a lesson your way to bring that ego down a few notches.

Embrace the fact that you don’t know everything. Then look for lessons to learn everywhere you go. You can choose to stop learning if you want, but why would you?

Want to be wise? Want to have knowledge? Be willing to keep learning long after you think you’ve already got the answers. You’ll be surprised by what you don’t know and by how much more you still have to learn. That’s what it means to be a master.

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One of the tigers at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

Why it’s important for God to be the boss

Sometimes in life, you meet foolish people. And I’m not talking about silly people or goofy people or even immature people. In many cases, people who are silly or goofy or immature are just young or young at heart or don’t have the life experience you do. But that doesn’t make them fools.

The Bible has a very specific definition of a fool. A fool is basically a person who knows what’s right and chooses to do what’s wrong anyway.  A fool is someone who refuses to learn from his/her bad choices.  A fool is someone who won’t listen, not to you, not to authority, not to God.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be a fool. The opposite of a foolish person is a wise person, so the next question we need to ask ourselves is what does it mean to be wise?

One of the tigers at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

One of the tigers at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

Today’s verse is Psalm 111:10.

Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom.
All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom.

This is one of those verses Sunday School teachers make kids memorize, but I’m not sure if people really take the time to explain it or understand it. As a child, I didn’t really get what it meant to be afraid of God.

God has always been a huge part of my life, and I’ve never been afraid of Him. But my mom helped me understand the concept of what fearing God looks like.

I’m not afraid of my boss. Not really. She’s intimidating in her own way, but only because she has authority in my life. So because I recognize her as my authority, I do what she asks me to do. And that’s the same way with God.

God is our authority. God has the right to tell us what to do. But it’s up to us to accept that authority or reject it. But what this verse means is that if you accept God’s authority, you’re on your way to becoming wise. So the the opposite must be true too. If you reject God’s authority, you’re on the fast track to foolishness.

One of the first steps to not being foolish is having an attitude that is teachable.

Have you met teachable people? They’re awesome to be around. They’re willing to learn. They don’t insist on getting their own way. They quietly allow you to explain yourself, your point of view. They don’t act like they already know it all. That’s the kind of person I want to be. That’s the kind of student, friend, daughter, sister I want to be.

How does your attitude check out? When God tells you to do something, do you automatically reject it? And I’m not talking weird, creepy voices in your head. I mean out of the Bible. That’s the way God communicates with us the majority of the time.

If the Bible says to live a certain way, do you do it? If you don’t do it, why not? Is it because it’s uncomfortable? Is it because it’s unpopular? Is it because you just don’t want to?

It’s okay. Everyone’s been there. I’ve been there in the last few weeks. Where God has obviously told me to do something, and I didn’t do it because I didn’t want to.

That doesn’t mean I’m not His child. That doesn’t mean He’ll throw me away. But it does mean that He’ll go out of His way to show me that living that way isn’t in my best interests.

Respecting God’s authority in your life is the very foundation of wisdom, because when you accept who God is to you and who you are to Him, it changes your perspective on everything. Or it should.

Do you respect God’s authority? Do you recognize that He is God and you aren’t? And if you do, do you accept what that means? That His way is best? Just because you believe one doesn’t mean you act on the other.

It’s difficult to do. It’s hard to live the way God wants sometimes, especially when you want to do things your own way. But live long enough and you’ll learn that God really does know what He’s doing. And your life will be so much easier if you just stop being stubborn and do what He says.

Maybe people say being foolish is fun, but it isn’t really. When you’re a fool, you plateau. There’s only so much foolishness a person can achieve. But wisdom? Wisdom opens doors. Wisdom stretches out farther than your eyes can see. Wisdom is a great adventure that never gets boring, never grows old, and never ends.

So which one do you want?