I read the other day that most people stop growing and pursuing new things around the age of 30. They are set up in their careers, many are having families. Apparently, with the ability to set up a cruise control of sorts in life they do just that. And with that, you stop growing You stop learning. You stop becoming.
About two years ago I was given an opportunity to take on a new position in an entirely different field of medicine. It is known as a very difficult field given the variety of presentations that someone can have for one disease, as well as the ambiguous nature of the symptoms they present with. True to form, it has been a difficult field to grasp. In fact, I don’t think I ever will fully grasp it, it’s just that kind of field. But I can learn. I can learn new and more things every day, and every patient. I can hone my skills, and I will continue to. What’s funny is at the same time my wife gave me a fantastic Christmas present- a piano and piano lessons. It had long been a desire of mine to learn (or attempt to learn) the piano. So here I was, taking on a whole new field in my career, and trying to learn the piano at the age of 40. I was surprised by how thrilling it was. I felt like I was using a part of my brain I had never accessed. When I would try to use both my hands to learn scales and fingering- it was like my brain had to work in ways it had never expected. And it felt strangely good. It felt like I was growing a new lobe of my brain. I actually became somewhat ambidextrous. I found myself eating with my other hand out of the blue. My piano teacher would say things like “what color do you see when you play this chord?” What? What color do I see? Should I be having hallucinations? No, but it forced me to look at music differently, and how did it make me “see” things differently. What’s fascinating was I started to “see” what she meant. I was sitting in church one Sunday and the pianist played a beautiful piece and I “saw” what she meant. It was like I could see water flowing as she played. It changed my appreciation for music and how I viewed it.
My mother is in her sixties and a tremendous example of this idea. A few years ago, she wanted to learn how to paint. It turns out, it had been a long-held dream of hers to do watercolors. So, she signed up for a class and started painting. She made friends there. She stumbled through some less than perfect paintings. She threw a lot out. She stretched herself, and discovered a new found joy and skill that had been buried for sixty years. She wants to keep growing, even into her sunset years. And she paints some very nice scenes now.
Likewise, my piano playing has allowed me to grow in a direction I never thought I would. A few Sundays ago one of the music leaders at church asked if I could accompany him in piano. I was thrilled. I was also scared. “What if I really screw up?” I thought to myself. “What if I totally hit the wrong notes?” I had to remember I didn’t learn piano so I could just play to myself. It should be shared, even if it’s choppy and difficult. I agreed to try. It was a little nerve-wracking, but I did it. And nobody covered their ears. Now only had I learned a new instrument, but I had grown into a new place with it, and was able to give out of that place.
Seeking and becoming
I believe this is also true in the spiritual realm. There is much to learn, and as Christians, we often think we have figured it out. We stop seeking. We stop learning. We stop growing.
Dallas Willard in his book The Allure of Gentleness talks about why God wouldn’t just create people who love him. Why he made a world and universe where we must seek him:
“It is because in doing what He is doing in history, he is creating a community of love that freely responds to Him, that chooses to be his, that diligently seeks until finds him, and that finds him in the fullness of life. No robots here. No machines. Just people who have experienced a free development of Christ-like character. Redeemed people.” (97)
It is in our nature to seek. To inquire. To learn. To grow. Let’s not be afraid to do that. To ask the hard questions. To try a new task. To learn a new skill.
And to become more of what we were created to be.