Articles get passed around daily where a writer shares a personal experience or a trial or a hardship. Good blogging practices tell you to always break down the text into little nuggets with big bold headlines to keep readers engaged. It also helps readers feel like they have something to take away from the piece.
Bloggers can seem so good at discernment: God has taught me X, or I’ve come to treasure Y more. In fact, many bloggers churn out articles enumerating the life lessons they have gleaned from their experiences every day.
So, I’m going to take my own crack at it. Here is my big bold takeaway point. The one life lesson everyone needs to learn is this:
Life does not boil down to life lessons.
If you are like me, when you get to the end of the day, you haven’t been able to categorize the 12 waking hours of the day into neat little cubby holes. Don’t fret. Just because you haven’t squeezed little jewels of wisdom out of every experience doesn’t mean you aren’t growing. Unfortunately, a blogosphere crowded with tidy posts can give us an inferiority complex about our own Christian walks.
In fact, your life probably looks and feels like the lives of the saints in the Bible. God’s Word feels real because biblical narrative accurately mirrors life. Unlike Greek mythology, the narratives of Scripture resist moralization. They are not fables; they cannot be boiled down to sing-songy lessons.
The lives depicted in Scripture are messy. There aren’t clear villains and sterling heroes. The saints of God sin. Pagan kings repent. Men and women bumble through marital strife and family discord. Brothers argue. God’s people complain and suffer and rejoice and cry–sometimes all in the same day. The Spirit has inspired a book that most accurately shows us the real world, and it’s filled with narratives that are more like webs than straight lines.
God is never doing just one thing, he is doing many, many, many things–most of which we cannot immediately discern. Consider further that many of the Bible stories were recorded decades or even hundreds of years after the events occurred. It took that much reflection before God’s people recognized the significance of those events. So if you don’t immediately recognize the full, cosmic significance of what happened to you today, I think you’re going to be all right.
So remember, life does not boil down to life lessons.
Life is more than the sum of its days or events. Your life is not a string of finite tweetables. It’s okay if you didn’t “take away” anything from the difficulties of today.
In fact, there is danger in expecting life to be so simple. People can go into life events not so much to experience them but to make sure they grab enough pics, quotes, and life lessons to memorialize the event afterwards. We can become so worried about chronicling our lives that we walk around with our phones out. We can force life to squeeze itself through mental filters for future blog posts or tweets.
Don’t let your life become mere fodder for your digital scrapbooks.
Being present means you might miss some great photo ops or funny quotes or “life lessons”. I remember in class at Southern, Russell Moore made this interesting point: “Sometimes I would actually prefer my congregants not to take notes. I want them to be fully present in the moment–engaging with God’s Word as it is preached.” When we idolize learning life lessons, we can actually miss the point. The life Jesus Christ has died to give us is not some means to another end–namely, life lessons–but it is the end.
Be present in the reconciled relationship God has restored with you through Christ. Be present in the reconciled relationships Christ is restoring through you with others.
In his spoken word “Be Present”, Propaganda says, “So I tend to think of life in movie clips or tweetable moments.” He goes on to talk about a joke his wife made about him being obsessed with his iPhone, calling it his “black wife.” He chuckles and goes on to illustrate the problem in real time:
“She talked about some other stuff which I really don’t remember. I was too busy in my head composing a tweet where I would quote her with some clever hashtag about marriage and about how much i love her to be paying attention to her at that moment.”
It’s okay to miss life lessons. Don’t miss life.
(photo credit: Sean J Conolly)