WHAT DID YOU LEARN TODAY? Why Is This Question So Important?
How many of you have ever asked your own children, “What did you learn today?” I suspect many of your kids responded like mine by saying, “Nothing.” As educators, we know this answer is nonsense, but children often have a hard time articulating their learning. It’s as if they forgot the content before their backpacks hit the entryway floor. Maybe it’s just laziness. Perhaps they simply are “done” talking about school by the time they get home. Whatever the reason, as a lifelong educator, I wanted to hear something different from my children, anything other than the word, “Nothing!”
I thought it would be fun for us to take this all too frequent exchange educators have with their own children and apply it to the conversations we have with our Heavenly Father. However, let’s adapt the question just a little. How about, “What did you learn from me and about me today?” What would be our response? Would we be able to articulate our learning, or do the details of the day become a blur once we close the schoolhouse door? Maybe, like our own children, we are just too tired to respond. It is frightening to think my response might be, “Nothing.” This, too, is nonsense!
Why is it so important to focus on what we are learning from God and about God each day?
As educators, we know if our students are distracted it is more difficult for them to learn. The same is true for us. Granted, it is nearly impossible to eliminate distractions. So, what do we do? How can we learn from God and about God every single day? As I wrestled with this question myself, it all came down to desire and focus. First, I have to WANT to learn. Second, I have to FOCUS so I can learn. I have the want to down, but the focus part is where I often get tripped up. After all, when your plate is full of simply teaching each day, it is hard to focus on anything else.
We all know God goes with us to work. Our faith is not something we compartmentalize when we walk into our classrooms, but to be honest, it’s easy to get sidetracked. The busyness of the day and the list of “to-dos” can cause us to miss what our Teacher is saying. If we aren’t careful, we won’t be able to answer the question: What did you learn today?
There are two teacher tools I have found super helpful when it comes to staying focused: sticky notes and acronyms. Anytime there is something I really want to remember, it goes on a sticky note and is placed in plain sight. If it is really important, it may warrant multiple sticky notes on multiple sites. Surely most of you can relate!
Then there are acronyms. I love using acronyms because I can squish a bunch of important concepts into one word. Sometimes all I need is a keyword to help me stay focused and jog my memory. I want us to be able to answer that all-important question (i.e., What did you learn today?). So, it makes sense to use the word LEARN as our acronym. Here is what I came up with!
If we are going to learn, we have to lean on God. To lean on Him means to trust Him. Proverbs 3:5-6 is a familiar passage: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths." If we trust in the Lord, we cannot also depend on our own ability to understand everything He is doing.
Sometimes we are left scratching our heads when dealing with students or colleagues. Sometimes decisions are made, and we aren’t sure why. Sometimes the task at hand feels insurmountable. We have to be willing to let go of our need to understand, our pride, and our plans. We have to acknowledge that we may only see part of the picture God is painting (1 Corinthians 13:12). When we lean into Him, we learn to trust in all circumstances as God weaves everything together for our good (Romans 8:28).
If we are going to learn, communication with God is essential. We must be willing to express our needs, our questions, and our concerns to Him through prayer. Prayer is simply talking to God, and the Bible encourages us to have an ongoing conversation with Him throughout our day (I Thessalonians 5:16-18). God the Father expects us to be open and transparent with Him about what is taking place in our lives.
Think about it this way. Do you have a close friend? I bet you talk to them regularly, and sometimes you even do a little venting. Why? Because our friends love us and help us work through our frustrations. We know we can express ourselves without judgment. If this is possible with our earthly friends, just imagine how true this is for a God who loves us unconditionally! In Hebrews, we are assured we can approach the throne of God with confidence (Hebrews 4:16). When we honestly express ourselves to God, He listens and we learn to hear His voice (John 10:27)
If we are going to learn, we have to ask God for wisdom. The wisdom I am referencing is not earthly wisdom but wisdom that comes from above. James described this wisdom as first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, and sincere (James 3:17). Wouldn’t you like to possess wisdom like this? Believe it or not, it is possible! To tap into God’s wisdom, we must desire it and then ask God for it without doubting!
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. (James 1:5-6)
Asking is only the first step to gaining Godly wisdom, but it is a crucial step. If we want to access the wisdom God provides, we must meditate on His Word (Proverbs 19:20, Colossians 3:16), walk in the Spirit (Ephesians 1:17-19, James 3:13), and continue to ask, believing in the promise given by Jesus (Mark 11:24). Only then can we truly learn.
If we are going to learn, we have to rely on God’s strength, not our own. One of my memory verses is 2 Corinthians 12:9: Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ can work through me.
Having been in education for many years, I can tell you there were many days when I felt weak. Looking back now, I am quite certain there were times I either tried to hide my weaknesses or pushed through difficult circumstances with my own strength. Needless to say, the end result was always frustration. I’ve learned (and am continuing to learn) that relying on God’s strength is about surrender. I have to let go of my need to take on everything myself and let the Holy Spirit strengthen and lead. He is more than capable. If we want to learn, we have to rely on His strength in every aspect of our lives (Galatians 5:24-26).
If we are going to learn, we have to nourish our relationship with God. Relationships are a two-way street. God is all in. He knows everything there is to know about us (Jeremiah 1:5). He desires to draw near to us (James 4:8) and stands ready to pour out His grace in our lives (Hebrews 4:16). The rest is up to us. Are we all in?
Relationships take time and effort. Time spent in prayer, Bible study, spiritual meditation, and Christian community is part of the relationship-building process. Our relationship with Christ has to take precedence over every other relationship in our lives. We learn about God and from God when we choose to nourish the relationship.
In the New Testament, Jesus was often called “Teacher” (Luke 13:10; John 1:38; 3:2). Being the greatest teacher of all, Jesus always had the best interests of His students at heart. Nothing has changed. Each and every day God orchestrates opportunities for us to learn from Him and about Him. When God asks us, “What did you learn from me today?”, there will be much to say as we lean on Him for understanding, express ourselves through ongoing communication, ask for wisdom, rely on His strength, and nourish the relationship.
Time to get more sticky notes!