Peacock in the sun at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Knowing more doesn’t mean you’re always right

Have you ever been in a situation where you had to teach somebody something? Maybe at work or at school or even on a project at home? Have you experienced that brief moment of excitement where you grasp the fact that you know something someone else doesn’t?

Maybe it’s just me. But I like that feeling. Just being honest. There’s something really empowering about realizing that you have knowledge other people don’t.

But just because you know something others don’t doesn’t necessarily make you smarter or more powerful. It just means you’ve had different life experiences that have allowed you to learn things others may not have been exposed to. Knowing more than someone else doesn’t make you superior. It just means you have something to teach.

Peacock in the sun at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Peacock in the sun at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Philippians 2:3-5.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

As a child, I loved Bible trivia and sword drills. I loved being able to show people that I knew all the books of the Bible, that I had memorized big passages, that I could hold my ground in nearly scriptural discussion. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with any of those things. We need to know the Bible. We need to know what it says and what it means and how it applies to our lives.

But so often that sort of knowledge becomes a competition where people who have a proclivity for retaining that type of information excel. And it’s not a competition. It shouldn’t be.

I’m not knocking sword drills. I’m knocking the attitude behind them.

I’ve seen too many new believers who couldn’t find the Book of Amos to save their life–but they have a better grip on God’s grace than any sword drill skills could provide. Which is more important?

I guess I’m just thinking about teaching today because I’m approaching a day where I’m going to have some teaching moments. And when it comes to teaching–especially when I’m teaching writing–my tendency is to think I know all the answers. I’ve been writing for a long time, and I have specific opinions about how it should be done. And that’s great. But that doesn’t mean my way is the only way. That doesn’t mean the people I have to teach are wrong.

Writing is funny like that.

The best teachers in my life haven’t treated me like a dummy. The people I’ve learned the most from in my life have treated me as an equal, as someone searching for answers, just like them. And that’s the kind of teacher I want to be.

I have so many friends who are teachers, and I have so much respect for what they do and how they do it. Nowadays, teaching is a thankless job. I appreciate all that our country’s teachers do to help their students succeed when all the odds are against them.

The best teachers aren’t teaching to do themselves a favor. Teachers teach because they’re putting the needs of their students above themselves. That’s where I want to be, not just in teaching but in life.

Are you facing a situation today where you have to teach somebody something? If so, remember to be humble about it. Just because you had the privilege to learn it doesn’t mean you know more than the person you’re teaching. They may know more than you do about something else, and you wouldn’t appreciate it if they talk down to you.

The funny thing about teachers who are humble is that they are always learning. They never think they’ve learned it all. They’re always willing and open to learn something new.

Be humble about teaching others what you know. You’ll be surprised. Who knows? You might learn more from your students than you teach them.

Dead sunflowers in the snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Endure suffering like a soldier

I come from a family with a proud military background. No one in my immediate family is in the military now, but many relatives have served this country as soldiers, dating back to the Civil War. Some marched or drove tanks in World War II. Some fought in Korea. And I’m proud of that, and I’m proud to have many friends who are in every branch of the service, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines. Being a soldier is no small thing. It’s a huge sacrifice, not only for the person who chooses it but for his (or her) family as well.

So when the Bible tells us that those who believe in Jesus are soldiers for Christ, what does that mean? How should that affect the way we live? How should that change the way we make decisions? How should that prepare us for the difficult times that are coming?

Dead sunflowers in the snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Dead sunflowers in the snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is 2 Timothy 2:3.

Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

How does a soldier endure suffering? I’ve never been a soldier in a military sense, so I don’t know. But I have been around many people who have had to stay behind while their loves ones leave the safety of home and travel to distant places in order to protect our country. And I can imagine that probably produces some suffering on both sides, the soldier who leaves and the family who stays. But what I have observed (at least from the family who stays) is something that challenges me in the way I follow Christ. And if I’m wrong, you military folks, please feel free to correct me. But this is what I have observed.

The ones who stay and the ones who go both have difficulties and hardships they have to endure. They’re expecting them, and they are prepared for them. And while they don’t rejoice to be separated or to have to go through those difficult things, they understand it’s for a greater purpose. So even though they’re lonely, even though sometimes they’re scared, even though sometimes they just wish it was all over, if you ask them, they will tell you it’s necessary and they understand.

And that makes me step back and reassess the way I deal with difficult things in my own life. Because if we’re supposed to endure difficult things like good soldiers (the Amplified Version says first-class soldiers), I need to take a lesson from some soldiers. When trouble comes my way, I shouldn’t hide from it, and it shouldn’t catch me off guard. I need to be ready for it. I need to be expecting it. And just because things get rough, that doesn’t give me the excuse to complain. This is war, after all. War isn’t fun.

What I love about this scripture is that it doesn’t say we’re supposed to endure suffering like a good general or a good admiral or a good commander in chief. It says we should endure like soldiers. Soldiers aren’t really in command. They aren’t in charge. There is someone above them making the decisions, calling the plays, issuing orders. Soldiers are supposed to obey–immediately, enthusiastically, whole-heartedly.

That’s where I get caught. Because when God tells me to do something I’ll do it, but it’s usually not immediately. And most of the time it’s not enthusiastically. And it’s rarely with my whole heart. I want to know why. I want to know what’s going to happen. I want to know the next step before I take the first step. But a soldier who constantly questions the orders he’s given isn’t good for much.

So are you going through some difficult things today? Are you facing hardships and troubles? Everyone does. If you aren’t today, you will tomorrow; and if you’ve never experienced trouble, you’re not paying attention.  Don’t be surprised when tough things come your way, and make the conscious choice to handle it the way the Message lays it out:

When the going gets rough, take it on the chin with the rest of us, the way Jesus did.

It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to be lonely. It’s okay to feel all those things, but you have to place more value on choosing to overcome those feelings than choosing to wallow in them. That’s the difference between a citizen and a soldier. A soldier looks past the emotion and does what is necessary. And they have understand that they don’t always need to understand, especially when they have a commander they can trust.

So face the trouble in your life today like a soldier. Endure it for a higher purpose. Endure it with the understanding that the war won’t last forever and we’ll eventually get to go home for the biggest reunion in the history of time. It will change your perspective on a lot of things.