I love how we are given opportunity to learn the same lessons repeatedly. The environment is different; the circumstances change; but the learning is the same.
If I’m honest, there was a time in my life when I found that to be more a frustration than opportunity. And then just like that, one of those silent, not so subtle, likely divine two-by-fours knocked me over the head, presenting indeed a place to grow.
A key learning occurred with the birth of our third son, one referred to oft here as young master Joshua. Josh is wildly gifted, a fantastic encourager, and really good with diverse people groups, especially with varied ethnicity. Josh also has Down syndrome.
My key learning was found in the heart of a brief letter from a friend, dropped at our door, when Josh was still in utero but his special, special need had been confirmed. Our wise friend penned, “Josh, I look forward not to what I will teach you, but to what you will teach me.”
For years I’ve pondered those words.
Last week I had opportunity to travel to the beautiful isle of Grenada. Dubbed the “Island of Spice” — known for its nutmeg, ginger, turmeric and more — this hilly terrain sits in the West Indies in the Caribbean Sea at the southern end of the Grenadine island chain. It’s not far from Venezuela, hosts some 115,000 people, and is frequented by tourists primarily traveling via cruise ship. Noteworthy, too, is their national motto: “Ever Conscious of God We Aspire, Build and Advance as One People.” I love and admire their proclaimed national awareness.
My intention on this long planned trip was to meet with a specific group of people on the island — mostly women, but some men, too — authentically interacting, encouraging, and helping them grow in their life and faith.
But clearly, being on the receiving end of their extravagant welcome, overflow of gratitude, and abundant generosity, I would argue that it was they who encouraged and taught me.
My time with the men and women and even children was wonderful; it was humbling and joyful with so much to take in. It is thus now making me take stock of perspectives and convictions I cling to fiercely, wondering where that fierceness has evolved into more of a detriment… I’ve heard this before… learned this before… a place where I went to give, so much was instead given…
I wonder… where else we could learn this… instead of walking into spaces and places and audiences with this inflated idea that we are the ones so richly imparted with great wisdom or so much to teach or so much to give, what would it change in us if we turned that around?
What if we walked into a room or relationship with the conviction that the person or persons standing before me had something to teach me?
What would that change?
What good would that do?
What better conversations could be had?
Perhaps it’s not a question of who will give or teach the most. Neither is it one in regard to who has most to learn. Rather it’s a recognition of the truth that we each have something to learn from the person on the receiving end of us…
No matter the room.
No matter the relationship.
No matter even the island, age, political persuasion, too.
Who are you unwilling to learn from?
Let me respectfully but bluntly rephrase…
Where has your fierceness in perspective or conviction blinded you, impairing you so much that you can no longer see what another can teach you?
We are no different, friends. Each of us have much to learn from one another. Thus, let me add… God bless you, young master Joshua… you, too, my new sweet friends in Grenada.