I’ve never claimed to be a great student, but I have always loved learning. When I was in high school, my only goal was to have a better GPA than my brother, and once I did that, I didn’t really push myself. When I was in college I saw which students were graduating with honors, and I figured I was at least as smart as they were, so I hit that standard as well.
It wasn’t until I got to seminary in preparation for Pastoral Ministry, and when I was paying for the education myself, that I really started to apply myself. I read everything that was assigned. I joined study groups, did extra assignments, and really pushed myself to achieve the best education I could. The big difference was I wasn’t as concerned about the grade, I was passionate about the study, and that made all the difference.
What I’ve found, however, over the years since seminary, is that I don’t much remember all the things I got right in school; what really stands out is what I got wrong. Case in point: the only question I remember from my Worship final in the Worship in the Reformed Tradition class is the one I got wrong.
I studied like crazy for that final, and it paid off. I sat down, began the test, and just felt confident with every answer. Except for this one: “What is the Haggadah?” When I read that, my mind went blank. I went through the rest of the test, answering everything as best I could, the circled back to this question, “What is the Haggadah?” Still nothing. Knowing I had done everything I could on the rest of the test, and knowing no amount of head-scratching was going to help me produce an answer to this question, I quickly wrote, “My favorite brand of Ice Cream…” and turned the test in.
I don’t remember any of the other questions from that test. But I do remember the Haggadah. And now I know what it means. In Hebrew, Haggadah means, “A retelling.” It comes from Deut 6, when the children would ask their parents what God’s commands and testimonies meant and why they were important, and the Father would retell the story of their deliverance from Egypt at God’s mighty hand. This is essential in our Biblical understanding of worship, because as we worship according to God’s Word, we are retelling the story of our salvation in God.
What stuck with me from that test is the lesson I learned in my error. I walked away knowing what I didn’t know and still needed to learn. And this is the mark of a wise man, he knows what he doesn’t know.
As you go through life, don’t be afraid to admit what you don’t know, to own your own mistakes. Our most important lessons are learned in our failures. The only people who don’t fail are those who don’t try. Mistakes and failures are not flaws in the system, they are how we learn and grow. The true fool is the one who refuses to learn from error, who continues in it, and only grows bitter and resentful when facing setbacks.
This is Biblical.
Proverbs 15:32 “Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.”
Proverbs 18:12 Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.
In fact, God honors and exalts those who humble themselves with a penitent heart.
Is 57:15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.
Ps 149:4 For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.
1 Pe 5:5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Be humble, knowing you will make mistakes. Listen to the advice of those who have gone before you that you may avoid their errors. And when you stumble and fall, for that is guaranteed, be humble, repent, admit your error, and with a heart seeking wisdom, grow in the grace of the Lord.