A lesson in humility & wisdom… well taught (a story from my past)

Dr. Russ Rogers - photo courtesy of DePaul University

When I was working on my Bachelor’s degree at Colorado Christian University, the school held annual student retreats… times when we would get away from our studies for a few days (yes, I did too study!) to attend a mini-conference in the mountains.  Each year’s topic, speakers, and approach was different, I think intentionally so.  I loved those times.  They were timely breaks in a busy schedule.

One year (I think it was the 89-90 school year), our speaker was Dr. Russ Rogers, who was then part of the faculty of Asuza Pacific University, and is now serving as part of the faculty of DePaul University.  His topic was, “Dreaming Dreams and Making Them Happen.”  I found it to be very helpful as a college student with a head full of dreams.  In fact, I somehow got my hands on a set of cassette tapes on the topic which I listened to many times over the next 8 or 10 years.

Keep in mind, this was in the late 80s, early 90s.  The “New Age Movement” and the fear of it was all the rage in the Evangelical world at the time (why do we Christians DO that?).  As a result, much of what Dr. Rogers had to say hit the ears of some of my classmates as dancing dangerously close to the edge of the New Age minefield.  I think some of them thought Dr. Rogers had run headlong into it, dancing joyously as he went!  As a result, during the Q&A session at the end of each talk, Dr. Rogers was relentlessly peppered with questions and accusations, which in my mind were completely unwarranted.  Those attacking him didn’t seem to have listened closely to what he was saying, or to have heard his heart in it.  He was far from being a New Age heretic (in my humble opinion).

After the retreat was over, I dug up Dr. Rogers’ address and wrote him a quick note.  More than anything I wanted to let him know that not everyone at the event had the same opinions as the more vocal among us, and that his input and time were greatly appreciated.

Dr. Rogers took the time to hand-write a short note to me, and in it he said this…

The key to wisdom is the essential humility to reserve judgment until comprehension sets in.  Clearly, each of us learns this in his own time.

Those two phrases etched themselves instantly in my memory banks.  It was like a modern-day proverb, lodged there, immovable.  They have informed my thinking on a variety of situations throughout the years, in powerful ways.

In a nutshell, my take-away from what Dr. Rogers was saying, is this…

  • Take the time to find out what you are talking about before you start talking about it
  • If you are not willing to do that, you aren’t very humble
  • Which also means you aren’t very wise

His gracious reply was so instructive to me, and I’ve never forgotten it.  On countless occasions it has reminded me to stop and truly listen to what others are saying before I pass judgment… to re-read the book of an author that I think I might be at odds with… to realize that I am not inerrant in my opinions or interpretations of the facts once I do have them.  Sometimes true comprehension takes a long time.  Other times it takes a very, very long time.  As the truth of my own proneness to error soaks into my soul, his words drive me to prayer, seeking the Lord’s illumination of my darkened understanding.

Thank you Dr. Rogers.  Your lesson to me regarding wisdom & humility was well taught… and I have not forgotten it.

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