Lifetime learners know there's a time when the human learning machinery changes. Education is an admixture of formal and informal systems that teach us. Somewhere along the way informal learning, that is, what we learn outside a classroom or any other structured learning environment becomes primary. Though this learning is broadened by the diverse paths we take everyday, it is narrowed by our personal interests and preferences. My personal learning curve the past few years has been in the history of the United States Revolution and World War II. More recently it has been updating my files on the Old and New Testament so I can function in the new role as adjunct professor at Charleston Southern University. Still, this stage of my learning cycle has been strategic in that regard. For the most part, I learn what I choose to learn. Sure, there are life lessons derived from driving down the highway or strolling through Wally World. But, most of my learning capsules today are more purposeful than that. I'm pretty narrow in my selection of reading material and television.
A short time ago one of my strategic learning platforms bit me. Ouch. It was in early morning Bible study. I was reading through the first chapters of Genesis and came across this verse---
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day,
and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the
trees of the garden.
Genesis 3:8, NIV
This may be off the wall, but that verse reminded me that there was a time in history when we humans learned by hearing. Yes, our Creator had gifted us with the five senses of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch so we could communicate with the world around us. But, they were our first learning mechanics too. Before alphabets and numbers, perhaps before crude drawings or depictions, before rhetoric or sentences or language the human species learned by them. Listening was an important element of our entire learning spectrum, whether formal or informal.
My takeaway that day was that i am a poor listener. Which means, I'm deprived of the valued lessons of listening to the world around me, the people in my life circle, and the truth God has sent my way through the informal processes that now constitute my primary learning mode. With grades, degrees, diplomas out of the way, my strategic learning curve ramps up when I learn to connect the dots of my spiritual markers, and when I finally master the God-given sense of listening.
OK, so I Googled "how to listen" and did three or four tutorials to improve my listening skills. When all the questions were answered, check marks and X's registered, and my listening habits evaluated I learned that my listening devices were calibrated by my lack of focus on what was happening around me. Mr. ADHD didn't pay attention to those elements of life that were speaking to me. My greatest strategic learning initiative was to settle my mind and listen more attentively to the people, circumstances, and life happening at the moment.
Jesus spoke often about people who had ears but could not hear. They were either self-absorbed, self-righteous, or so detached from what was happening right then they could not absorb the truth he was teaching or revealing to them. It was a lesson the Apostle Paul taught when he reminded the Roman believers that "Faith comes by hearing...". Strategic learning is purposeful and intentional. Listening is strategic learning when I (1) learn to listen to life more carefully and, (2) exercise discipline to be more selective about what enters the sound corridors in my mind.
Several years ago I had a speaking engagement at The Cove, the Billy Graham Training Center in Western North Carolina. The conference room was surrounded by a deck that wrapped the entire upper floor of the center. The overview from the deck was totally spectacular, the Blue Ridge Mountains displaying the beauty of God's handiwork. After one session there was a thunderstorm flashing across the mountain vista. it was a sight to see and hear. Every person sitting in the rocking chairs on that deck were buried in their smart phones. No was was observing or listening.
Hey, it's the information age. There's plenty to learn. Let's be strategic in our learning. I'm praying and working that i learn to listen.
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