Spiritual Education

No one reading this inspirational piece has avoided education.  Without education you could not be reading these words.  It has been so long since I could not read, I cannot even remember those days.  And I don’t even remember the slow process of learning how to read.  I am grateful for all those early educators who must have had immense patience to hang in there with me.             

My memory tells me I was an above-average student when I was learning to read.  I was not the brightest one in my reading and English classes.  Girls always seemed smarter than the guys!  I don’t even know when I began using the language of “education” to describe my learning process.  When I was young, the whole educational enterprise was articulated as “going to school.”  At school, I “learned things.”  I was ok with that because there apparently was no choice.             

I did not grow up in a house where there was much talk about education.  It was assumed the kids went to school and implicitly assumed some learning was taking place.  My parents were always interested in my grades, but I don’t recall them asking what I learned.  I don’t fault them for this.  I am confident they assumed there was a direct correlation between grades and learning.  If I had an “A,” there must have been much more learned than if I had received a “C.”  Maybe that’s true, but I know I do not assume that.           

High school came and went.  Then many of us move on to college.  By college I was clear I was being educated.  It was normal to talk about a “college education.”  From that it is easy to conclude that we spent four years in the process of being “educated,” and then the process would be complete.  In fact the normal language would declare that I was “college educated,” clearly using past tense language.           

A couple things have happened along the way in my educational life.  In the first place, folks began using the language of “life-long education.”  I now have enough experience to know that I have continued to learn long after I no longer “went to school.”  I am fine with that.  I can learn without paying tuition!  In today’s complex world only an idiot would claim that nothing new is there to learn.  I am thrilled to be a life-long learner.    

Secondly, I began to understand “education” and “going to school” were not synonymous.  A corollary of this is to recognize that a huge amount of the learning I have experienced came in some context other than the classroom.  I have countless teachers scattered around the world with whom I have never been in a classroom.  For example, I have never taken a computer class, but I can function because of good teachers. 

As I have been writing this, it began to occur to me that spiritual education is comparable.  I realize so much of what I have learned spiritually did not come to me “at school” nor in a classroom.  For example, I have learned to pray, but I never had a class in prayer.  I also realize there is so much more spiritual education I would like, but sadly have settled for too little. 

If I am honest, I would say sometimes I feel like a spiritual kindergartner!  In my case that is ironic.  I have a Ph.D. in religion and in that sense I am highly educated.  But that does not make me spiritual.  I could write a dissertation on God and have no first-hand knowledge of the Divinity Itself.   

This leads me to acknowledge that experiential education is the key to my spiritual education.  My most valuable spiritual education has come as a result of the experience I have had.  Sometimes I need others to help me understand and interpret the experience.  I value the spiritual educational topics that life has offered me.  I have experienced first-hand the living, loving God.  I know what it is like to have been forgiven.  I have experienced grace---pure gift. 

Ultimately, spirituality is about love.  I am in spiritual elementary school when it comes to love.  I know quite a bit about the lower levels of love.  Most of us know infatuation.  We know how to love our friends.  To widen the circle, however, begins to ask more commitment and maturity.  To love in a godly fashion seems impossible for many of us.   

I am grateful for my life and for all the possibilities in store for me.  I am eager to still be a student of the Spirit.  Every day is potentially an opportunity for some spiritual education.  My teachers appear in ordinary and, sometimes, surprising forms.  One of my most effective, current spiritual teachers is my little granddaughter.  She does not even know she is my teacher! 

I thank God for angelically appearing in and through the lives of those around me to educate me spiritually.  I pray that I be aware and attentive to the ongoing spiritual lessons.  I want to live fully and know as deeply as I can.  I don’t want to die spiritually while I am still alive.  Spiritual education is the key.

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