Ugly learning is not bad learning. In fact, it may actually be the best learning. The thing is, it is not pretty, pleasant, or amusing. It doesn't usually happen in clean laboratory settings or comfortable surroundings. Ugly learning leaves tread-marks and potholes and scuffs. The man or woman in the mirror sees ugly learning in the lines and wrinkles and gray hair that stare back at us every day. It's ugly because it's usually hard and bad, often cruel and mean. This is the learning of suffering, difficulty, trials, and pain.
It would be a natural, first-hand topic for the pen of King David. He experienced about every kind of hardship imaginable---opposition, family disputes, temptation, bad decisions, a disobedient spirit with God, tragedy and death, betrayal, and just about any other kind of trouble inventive minds can conceive. If he authored Psalm 119 it is pretty much a chronicle of his learning, ugly learning included. In verse 71 he wrote about clearly about it---
It was good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your your statutes.
Psalm 119:71, ESV
The good of that particular affliction was that it enabled the King to learn God's righteous statutes. And, that's why ugly learning is often the best learning. It opens portals to those moments of clarity where learning is accelerated. Somehow the crucible of severity invokes a magnetic fix on our attention mechanisms so that we can focus more acutely when under the gun. The lessons learned there are indelibly etched on our conscious. Ugly learning has a stickiness that remains.
It's one of the reasons we are to rejoice when we have times of suffering or trouble. They are unique teachable moments when we independent and stubborn humans can encounter the profound truths of life and embrace them. What is more, this kind of learning is a significant theme in Scripture. Take note---
We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance
produces character, and character produces hope...
Romans 5:3-4, ESV
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by
various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold
that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and
honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:6-7, ESV
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as
though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share
Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
1 Peter 4:12-13, ESV
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the
testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect,
that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2-4, ESV
And there are many others. They are to remind us that some of life's most precious lessons are learned under the pressure packed curriculum of tough times. For this reason the Apostle Paul made fellowship with Christ's suffering a vital element of his personal spiritual life. To the Philippians he wrote---
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of
knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all
things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be
found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the
law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from
God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his
resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his
death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the
Philippians 3:8-11, ESV
Here's the thing. Of the learning modes---the good, the bad, and the ugly---we are more prone to avoid the ugly, pursue the bad, and appreciate the good. Perhaps there should be a change of heart here. You know, avoid the bad, pursue the good, and genuinely appreciate the ugly.
The anonymous author of Hebrews wrote about Jesus, our high priest. He mentioned ugly learning in his summary of Christ's life.
Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.
Hebrews 5:8, ESV
If we are to follow in Christ's steps, ugly learning must be an important element in our personal spiritual growth growth and maturity.
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