be a life-long learner

FEW Core Value #7 by FEW Ambassador, Angela Reimer

 

To learn is to water your soul so you can grow into the person that you were meant to be. One of the most important core values of FEW is to be a lifelong learner. So what does this mean? It means that in order to become the best possible versions of ourselves we must continue to learn and we MUST be teachable. If we don’t feed and water our souls, part of who we are will wither and die and we can become ineffective tools in the Kingdom. As adults, we often get comfortable with where we are in life and don’t want to change so we unintentionally become unteachable and unreceptive to the idea of doing things differently because it’s outside of our comfort zone. Or, we can become incapable of growing because of unhealthy people or negative experiences the enemy lies on our path to stunt our growth. We need to realize that he does this because the enemy KNOWS what you will do for the Kingdom of God if you continue to grow and learn, so he does what he can to stop it.

I love to spend time gardening when I can. Last season my mother-in-law gave me some of her gardening tools to bless me. She too loves to garden and at the end of each gardening season, she would sharpen, oil and polish her tools so that they were ready to go the following spring. I was so happy when I received these tools from her because even though they were much older than the ones that I owned, they worked like new. I’d spent good money on the tools that I’d had before I received hers, but my tools were not as effective. A couple of them had even begun to rust and they were nowhere near as sharp because I’d not taken the time to care for them the way that my mother-in-law cared for hers. To prevent ourselves from becoming like dull rusty old gardening tools, we need to make sure that we keep ourselves sharp and polished by continuing to learn.

In order to be the best possible learners, we need to look to those that are the best at learning; children. In Mark 10:15 Jesus says: “I tell you with certainty, whoever doesn’t receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” Working with kids, one thing I noticed is that anytime anything about growing up, getting bigger or becoming stronger was mentioned they would all light up. And most of them couldn’t wait to tell you what they wanted to be when they grew up. This is because as a child the thought of your future self is so exciting, and you can’t wait to become a bigger better stronger person. So kids are eager to learn and grow. As children, we are quick to believe, as children, we know where our source of comfort comes from, and as children, we think the best of others. We as adults need to be like children. If we see the world like children, that’s when we can experience the kingdom of Heaven in your lives.

Children are often quick to believe. If you told your children that they were going to go to Disney world tomorrow they would most likely believe you. As we grow older we are faced with situations or negative people that have changed our perspective. No matter if it’s from a trusted church member that proved to be untruthful or a family member that hurt you and betrayed you. These situations chip away at our trust for the world and make this childlike characteristic eventually cease to exist. We unintentionally put our faith in our experiences rather than the truth of God’s promises. Although this is not avoidable, with God it can be reversible but we must chose to put our trust back in him even if circumstances prompt us to do otherwise.

Without faith, it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those that diligently seek him ~Hebrews 11:6 Faith is part of the learning process. We must train and teach our brains to trust God in every situation no matter the circumstances. In order to become a lifelong learner, we must always be learning how to trust God on a deeper level. In doing this we are very pleasing to him. Along with children being quick to believe, children know their source. As a child, I never had to wonder where my next meal was coming from or if I was going to have a place to sleep at night. When I was afraid I always knew that I could call on my parents to help me. Yet as an adult, I often find myself looking to my bank account or my job as indicators for my protection and provision rather than trusting that my Father is in control and will take care of me.

“Therefore I tell you do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food or your body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns. And yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even the Salmon in all its splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you? You of little faith? So do not worry saying “what shall we eat? Or “What shall we drink?” or “what shall we wear?” for the pagans run after all these things and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” ~Matthew 6:25-33

This scripture beautifully explains the importance of this childlike characteristic – knowing your source. Part of becoming a lifelong learner is teaching yourself to put all your trust in God and to know fully that he will take care of you in all things. In addition to children being quick to believe and knowing who their source is, children also think the best of others.

One of the most beautiful examples that I have heard is the story of Dan & Nora. Dan was an 82-year old widower that had fallen into a deep depression after his wife had passed away. For 6 months he lived as a hermit inside of his house, alone. He would spend his days staring out the window not knowing how he could go on living or what life had to offer him. The only time he ventured out of the house was when he was forced to go to the grocery store for food, but he hated going. One day as he begrudgingly made a quick stop at the store, he ran into a young mom pushing her four-year-old daughter Nora in her grocery cart. When Nora saw Dan, without even thinking about it, she happily started waving at him and said. “Hi old man it’s my birthday” and she asked if she could give him a hug. At this Dan started to cry because it was the first time since his wife’s passing that he had experienced joy. This started a deep friendship between their families and now Nora goes to see him at least once a week with her mom to bring joy into this man’s life. He calls Nora his little Angel. Now, any adult (myself included) would have seen this man as he angrily shopped with a big scowl on his face and walked right past him. But not little Nora, when she looked at him, she saw “her new friend”.

“Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”~ Mark 12:31

We all can learn a lot from children like Nora, she didn’t place any judgment on Dan at all. She wasn’t worried about offending him and didn’t want anything from him other than to be his friend. When is the last time that you did this? We need to spend a lifetime teaching ourselves how to see the best in others without placing judgment on them. We need to be Jesus to them. Nora showed this man Jesus without even trying or knowing she was doing it. That’s the beauty of childlike innocence.

In conclusion, these characteristics are part of what makes children so happy, they enjoy life because they aren’t worried about anything which is what scripture tells us to do. Do you know that children laugh on an average of 400 times a day, and adults laugh around 15 times a day? We would all be much happier individuals if we could put our trust in God and stop worrying about everything! Ten years ago you couldn’t have paid me to be standing up and talking to an audience. I was so rooted in hatred and bitterness. My motto in life was “people suck”. I especially hated the church. My parents were children’s pastors and I’d spent most of my life in the church. I’d witnessed my parents slandered and verbally abused by “Christians” who had once said that they loved them, I’d personally sustained physical abuse by my own pastor and years later by a close “Christian” friend who was heavily involved in our church and looked up to. For a long time even saying the word ministry made me throw up a little bit, I was repulsed by it and had grown to believe that the word ministry was a code word for hypocrisy. But God did an amazing work in my life and I stand before you a changed woman, Why? Because I LEARNED to have a teachable heart.

One of the first defining moments that God used to backhand me with the truths that helped me grow up was when I was helping my mom cover the nursery at our church. Someone had once again bailed on her (it happened almost every week) so she turned to me for help. I did it…..begrudgingly. But I was in a perpetual state of annoyance the entire time. I was angry that “Christians” were completely devoid of integrity and kept canceling on her all the time. I was annoyed that I had to be in with the kids instead of out in the service with my husband and I kept watching the clock because I couldn’t wait to get out of there. When service was finally over, as I was cleaning up toys, a woman approached my Mom in tears, gave her a hug and told her “thank you”. My mom was caught off guard and asked what she was thanking her for and the woman proceeded to tell her through her sobs. She told my mom that she and her husband were new believers and had only been attending our church for a short time. Their son had been in the nursery with her during the brief time that they were there but had recently passed away due to a respiratory illness. This woman told my mom that up until recently her son had grown up in a Godless home. But in the time that he was in the nursery with my mom, He’d learned how to say Jesus and Bible and he had a full understanding of what those words meant. He used to sing Jesus Loves me over and over. This was because my mom had taken the time to truly show him Jesus. As soon as that woman had left the room I got up and ran to the bathroom and burst into tears. You see, I too had been in that nursery with my mom for more than a handful of the times that this little boy had been in there with her. I had played with and held that little boy in my arms on more than one occasion and instead of being Jesus to him, all I could do was watch the clock because I couldn’t wait to get out of there and go spend time with my husband. I had an opportunity and it was missed, all because I loved myself more than I loved my neighbor. Which is the exact opposite of what God tells us to do. I had become hard-hearted and unteachable because of negative past experiences and thought I had everything and everyone figured out.

That day was a wakeup call to me. I apologized to God for not realizing that I may be the only connection to Jesus that someone has, and he did not come into my life for me to hold onto him and keep him to myself. I apologized for not showing those babies love when I was in that room with them and I asked him to soften my heart and show me how to be a better person. I asked him to help me become the person that he wanted me to be. It was definitely a process because I was still a punk in a lot of areas for a while after that day. but because I had humbled myself and made that choice to be teachable. I opened up the door to knowledge and I learned how to become a better human being and a more effective tool in the Kingdom of God. I’m still a work in progress though! It took years of direction from those that are wiser than I am as well as some that were much less experienced. We don’t get to chose who God uses to teach us. It took years of listening to sermons and teachings that showed me what God said about me and took YEARS of learning how to practice forgiveness to those that wronged me and my family and realize that God loves them just as much as he loves me. But I’m not even close to done, y’all! It will take many more years of me practicing these same things for me to become who God wants me to be and for me to be able to do the things that he wants me to do. I will never stop growing but it started with a choice. I had to chose to humble myself and be teachable. Working with FEW is part of the path that God wants me to follow. I am still excited to see where he takes me on this journey, but I can tell you that I never would have gotten this far if I hadn’t been open to correction and change. I encourage all of you to make that same choice because God has HUGE plans for each one of you! Part of him helping you to achieve those plans is for YOU to have a teachable heart and humbling yourself before him. Take on these childlike characteristics, use them and try to implement them into your everyday life. We need to be lifelong learners and continue to grow not just for now, but for our future and for the future of those around us. One of the biggest inhibitors of learning and growing is resistance to change.

Changing the way we do things can be difficult, but we need to die to self and resist the devil; not change. Don’t ever allow a bad experience or negative people stunt your growth. This is the enemy’s plan because he knows how effective you will be in the Kingdom if you grow stronger as a person and in Christ. Someone somewhere needs you right now, but there will also be someone somewhere who will need a stronger version of you in the future. But you must take the time to learn how to become that person. Be teachable. Be humble. Be willing to change. Become a lifelong learner.

 

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Angie Riemer is a wife of twenty-one years and mother of two. She lives in Waukesha, Wisconsin and loves the downtown vibes that the city emits.  She’s a former children’s pastor and is also the daughter and the granddaughter of children’s pastors. The desire to point people to Jesus runs deep in her family history. After facing many struggles and trials in her life, with God’s help, she has managed to come through happy and healthier than she’s ever been. Her passion in life is turning something old, broken and unwanted into something beautiful, desirable, and useful – just like God has done with her life.

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