Spiritual learning – like wiping the dinner table

An illuminating conversation occurred recently between my 8 year old son and me while he was attempting to wipe down the dinner table. It was illuminating because it pointed me toward a way to express a concept that I’ve been thinking on for some time. The conversation went something like this…

ME: Son, make sure you’re getting all of the table clean…

SON: I am, Dad…

ME: No, you’re not – look at how you’re holding the rag, all bunched up. Spread it out and wipe the table with it that way so that more of it can wipe the table.

SON: O.K. (and he spreads out the rag)

ME: (after watching for a bit) Son, you’re missing lots of areas on the table… (he looks at me in confusion) Wiping the table is supposed to get ALL of the table clean, not just make wet marks across some parts of it. Try this for starters… imagine that you are painting the table with the rag and you want EVERY part of the table to be covered with paint. That will help you to wipe down every part, not just make big swipes here and there…

SON: (Thoughtfully) O.K. Dad (and he began to do a thorough job – sort of)

Why do I tell you this story? Because it’s a good example of how teaching occurs and serves to point out a wrong attitude that is prevalent in the modern world.

What happens during the process of teaching? Someone who is more experienced, more seasoned, more knowledgeable, or more wise in a certain area gives guidance to someone who is less so in that area. My son is only 8 years old. He’s not wiped many tables in his lifetime. In fact, he’s only been doing so for a short time as one of his regular chores around the house. Due to his inexperience in the area of table-wiping, he’s got a lot to learn – and learn he will. The same holds true in the spiritual arena.

There are people – hopefully Pastors, teachers, Elders in your church – who are more knowledgable, more experienced, and more mature in spiritual matters than you are (if they are not, there are two possible options. 1) You are a mature believer yourself, as you should be, or 2) you should probably begin looking for another church – one with qualified leadership). In order for you to grow in your own spiritual walk, you need the input of these people in your life – and you need the accountability they offer as well. And you need to begin seeing that those people are placed in your life by God, to help you move along spiritually. You need them.

Once we are adults, the world teaches us to cop an attitude that says, “Who are YOU to tell me such and such!?” – and it doesn’t matter WHO the person is, we are still encouraged to have that attitude. The wrong belief is that everyone is one equal terms in every area, especially when it comes to moral or spiritual things. It’s relativism, plain and simple. But in answer to the question – “Who are YOU to tell me such and such?”, the honest truth is – they are your Pastor, an Elder in your church, a more mature Christian – and as such they have the right and the Biblical mandate to speak truth into your life and to spur you on toward spiritual growth. That’s one of the primary things the church IS! If you thought it was something different (a socially expected association, a place to go each week to feel good, a religious organization, a social mission, etc.), then you were sold a bill of goods! You need to realize that everyone (even the Pastors and Elders) need to be taught, all along the road of life. And in order for that to happen, you have to humble yourself and receive instruction.

SO – Get the chip off your shoulder and humbly receive what your spiritual leaders have to offer. You might be surprised how much more noticeable your spiritual growth is. And if you don’t have spiritual authorities in your life whose lives you can respect and eagerly imitate, then you need to find a new church in which to fellowship. And IF you do leave, do them a favor and lovingly tell them the truth about WHY you are leaving.


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