When I was a child, I liked going to school. In general, school was a pleasant place to be. I liked to read, and for the most part, the subject matter didn’t seem too difﬁcult. But when I didn’t have to go anymore, that was ﬁne with me. After completing the amount of schooling that is required by law, and rounding out my education with a 4-year college degree, I was done.
There were a few high school subjects I avoided when I could—calculus, for instance. “Why study calculus if I’m not going to use it in the future?” my 17-year-old brain reasoned. Besides, I didn’t want to risk spoiling my GPA. Physics was another class I avoided in high school. That probably wasn’t such a good decision. Maybe I wouldn’t have struggled so much with my college-level physics course if I’d been introduced to the subject earlier. I didn’t take the calculus or physics courses because I was afraid—afraid I wouldn’t do as well as I wanted to, afraid it would be difﬁcult, and as I mentioned before, afraid it would mess up my grades. So, I skipped out. I avoided those classes altogether, and no longer had to deal with the fears. Was it wrong? No. I had a choice. These classes were not required—they were optional. I chose other classes that were more to my liking, and that was completely within the bounds of what was required in order to complete my secondary education. Was it wise? Looking back, I sure could have beneﬁted from that physics class later on, so giving in to my fears did not serve me well for the future.
“How often do I try and skip out on the lessons God is teaching me because they cause me some pain in the process?”
Although I have completed my formal education, I should still be learning. As a child of God, I am continually learning of Him and from Him. Hebrews 12:11 has long been a favorite verse: “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them who are exercised thereby.” This “chastening,” or discipline, is not so much about punishment, but is the Greek word paideia, a common term of the day for childrearing through instruction, training, and correction. At the time, this discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, and something I could be tempted to try and avoid.
How often do I try and skip out on the lessons God is teaching me because they cause me some pain in the process? One current example readily comes to mind. There is a new book sitting on my shelf that I know I need to read. This book will likely correct some of my thinking, and give me instruction on how I need to adjust some of my child-training methods, as well as my interactions with other people in light of a biblical view of God’s grace. I know this because I started reading and was ready to put it away after the foreword and introduction. I don’t want to read it because it might mess up my current child-rearing methods—the ones I’ve been practicing for almost 12 years. It will be difﬁcult to work through the material the author is presenting and acknowledge that there are areas in which I need to change. And as I implement change, what if I’m not very good at it? What if I struggle, and it feels hard, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going well? Are there other lessons that are not to my liking that I’d rather avoid? What about the godly friend whose life example brings conviction to mine, so I avoid spending time with her? Am I able to sit alone with my thoughts and meditate on the truths of scripture in communion with God, or is my soul so noisy that I regularly resort to mindless ﬁdgeting with my handheld device in order to keep myself occupied? When pain, grief, or sorrow is ordained for me, do I cover these emotions with fun, frivolity, and leisure of all kinds? Is my goal in the midst of a trial to see how quickly I can be done with it?
Stay in school. Do not be afraid or grow weary and skip out, but respond to the call to persevere and endure. It will be hard, and you may fail, but the Teacher is more than your instructor. He is your loving Father. As a believer, this paideia proves your sonship, and you have His promise that this loving training is for your good beneﬁt. It will serve you well, and the yield in your life will be a harvest of righteous fruit.
Written by Jonie Turner French. This article was published in the Fall 2011 edition of The Beautiful Spirit magazine. Jonie lives in Washington State with her husband and three children.