The Professor’s Name is Experience
My wife and I have become trailer travellers. The statement suggests more proficiency than is appropriate. “We are learning to be trailer travellers” is more accurate. There are resources available to instruct us. I have visited a couple of RV centres. I’ve watched some YouTube tutorials and tugged the ear of those who are more travelled than I am. Frankly, I’m surprised at how much there is to learn! Hitches, sway bars, tongue jacks, GVWR, curb weight, black or grey tanks (don't mix them up) and I haven’t even mentioned backing up! Despite the intake of all the information I could absorb, there is really only one way to learn. Experience.
Experience is the supreme teacher. Nothing can replace the doing of a thing to learn it well. That’s true of piano technique, cooking a turkey, navigating a strange city, juggling or anything else you can think of. We acknowledge that practice makes perfect. What we don’t say enough is that experience is a severe teacher. It doesn’t spare us pain or promise ready success. It is schooling by hard knocks. So far, in becoming a trailer traveller, I have fused a hitch against a rental truck, crushed a couple of chucks, performed a scary 11 points blind turn in a cramped campground, bashed a few knuckles on stabilizers and most of all - learned that I needed a bigger vehicle! My learning curve has been more jagged than smooth. But it is turning me into a trailer traveller.
The principle of education by experience applies to our faith as well. No one grows fully in Christ by Bible Study alone. While essential, it is still only a starting point. We are to flesh out the truths we read. We mature in our spiritual life by experiencing unanswered prayers, extended deserts of the soul, the struggles of witnessing, the problem of pain, the fog of our future or the challenge of community. Each of these (and many more) can be hard to understand and harder to endure. In the midst of them, we may feel like failures and wonder why God is doing this to us. But God will teach and train His children. He has begun a good work and He will complete it. God will do His part. What is ours?
The catechism of experience is not automatic. Going through something doesn’t ensure that we learn from it. I will always be a novice trailer traveller (or a stunted believer) apart from three key words. Remember. Reflect. Resolve. I am to remember the experiences God has given me. Our lives fall in patterns where God repeats some lessons. I will be compelled to face them repeatedly unless I also reflect on my experience. What has God taught me? Where are my vulnerabilities? Once we remember and reflect, we are able to resolve for new ways of doing and being. In other words, we learn and grow by the grace of God. You should watch me back up now.