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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Prepare to develop

I recently saw a post on my social media feed with a simply phrase:  "You were given this life because you were strong enough to live it."  It was set over a simple photo of a farm and farmhouse.  I think it probably had a couple of messages behind it, such as farming is not for wimps!  It probably had another meaning closer to the passage below - we don't receive lessons in this life through osmosis, but because we walk through them and learn from them.  Someone might think they were given the life they were given because only THEY could live up to the challenge.  The challenge wasn't given to you because you had the strength, it was given to you to reveal the strength the Almighty would give you to walk through it.

Those who learn from the lessons of life will join the others who are wise.  Those who disregard discipline sabotage themselves, but those who are open to correction gain understanding. Reverence for the Eternal is the first lesson of wisdom, and humility always precedes honor.  (Proverbs 15:31-33 VOICE)

Some think the process of learning comes as a result of enrolling in some course which will somehow "educate" you.  This may be true when it comes to learning how to fix air conditioning compressors, or successfully anesthetize a patient for surgery, but there are far more lessons learned in the school we never really "enroll" in!  We call it life and it comes at us at extraordinary speeds on occasion.  The lessons of life will lure us in like a slow, lazy river gives us the sense all will be peaceful as we launch our raft upon it, only to find it takes us straight into the roaring rapids of chaos!  Most of us want the lazy river kind of lessons - the ones we learn by laying back, luxuriating in the beauty of the moments which pass, and the sounds of peaceful breezes coming through the trees.  

We might get a little curious when we begin to hear the rapids in the far off distance, but we still don't connect those sounds with the river we are afloat upon.  As our raft begins to rock a little, picking up speed, we may begin to wonder a little, but we are still not stirred enough to make course corrections.  Yet, when the full-on rapids begin to jerk us back and forth, tossing all manner of cool spray into our faces, and the horror of the moment grips our emotions, we somehow begin to pay attention!  

The wise don't avoid the river altogether - they learn to navigate it because they don't allow it to lull them into repose and stupor.  They remain attentive to the sounds of the journey, for the subtle changes only catch a listening ear - for they alert them to course corrections long before they become "necessary".  They enjoy the journey not because it is without challenges, but because each challenge reveals a new opportunity to embrace life and learn what is revealed in the moment.  

There are those who regard discipline as "control" - either that which you exert in the moment, or that which is imposed upon you at the time.  Did you know the word "discipline" can be translated "education".  To learn is to live a disciplined life - a "discipled" life.  The followers of Jesus were asked to do more than just "float the river" with him.  They were asked to "learn of him" - to engage in life with him, actively participating in the journey.  We learn the greatest lessons when we actually participate in them.

Disciples (disciplined individuals) actually exhibit two very important character traits:  1) development and 2) preparation.  Lest we think we can learn without either of these traits, let's think about that one again.  Preparation involves time - time spent "getting ready".  A baby is in the womb for how many months?  Nine, if they are full-term.  What is happening during that time?  The baby is developing - getting ready to be born.  Born too early and it needs all manner of artificial support, because it wasn't intended to live outside the womb that early on its own.

What happens to the parents during the time the baby is in the womb?  They are preparing for that which is developing within!  They are making adjustments to their lives in order to be ready for the new life about to become part of theirs for a long, long time.  The room is set up, the seat is installed in the car which will ensure the baby is secure for whatever journey they will take together, and the clothes are amassed which will keep that infant warm as it slumbers through nap times galore. 

The parents are not only preparing, they are developing, as well.  As they read the books on what to expect when an infant is born, they are preparing for the labor process, the delivery, and the subsequent sleepless nights!  Sometimes they actually make life corrections, such as beginning to save money, knowing the time has come to change how much they spend on only themselves, as another is coming who will count on them to provide for their needs. They are learning - preparing and developing.

As we go through life, it isn't the challenge which actually prepares and develops us, but the one who walks us up to the challenge, then continues to walk with us throughout it!  He prepares us in the quiet, lazy river moments, only if we are attentive to his lessons.  He strengthens us and takes us into the "advanced lessons" of life in the rapids, but he never abandons us upon the waters - ever!  Just sayin!