The openness a person has to learning new things (be it spiritually related or not) is undeniably important. As followers of Jesus we are asked to ‘be in the world, but not of it’ (John 17:15-16)… you’ve heard that before right?
‘Being in the world’ HAS to mean more than just a physical presence. ‘Being in the world’ is also about understanding the world. I mean, it just makes sense really. For one, a life lived simply “existing”… sounds really boring. But more than that, we are actively shutting ourselves away from growing in love and faith with God. Let’s not forget He is still in the world – He sent His Spirit (John 14:26). Yes, Satan is the prince of this earth, but God is the God of everything. EVERYTHING (Ephesians 4:6, Romans 11:36). And He will speak to you and call you to His purpose in every way He possibly can (2 Timothy 1:9, Romans 8:28).
Learning is one thing, but the attitude with which you approach your learning and the things you encounter and open yourself up to by doing that is arguably more important. You can learn about anything you want to – but if you are unable to humble yourself before Jesus and the vastness of His creation, and allow yourself to be challenged and molded and refined by it, a relationship with God beyond just mere belief of existence and a life filled with love and purpose becomes impossible. So why do so many of us who love Jesus and are ‘in the world’ still feel as though God isn’t speaking to us, or at least, isn’t speaking in a way that we can’t hear?
Well from where I stand, it seems to get down to this: humans tend to be a bit defensive at the best of times… it’s like a default setting or something. Maybe it’s a self-preservation thing? I’m not exactly sure, I haven’t looked into the psychology of it… but it’s definitely a thing. Defensiveness…
So being physically defensive is one thing and that, I feel, is pretty simple to understand. There’s a perceived threat and whamo! We’ve got ninja arms flying everywhere. Or maybe you favour the foetal position when it comes to defense mechanisms – hey, no judgment here. But whatever you do, the formula is pretty simple right? Physical threat = physical defense (in most cases). Well being mentally defensive is a little bit trickier… but does follow the same principles. See, people are made up of a couple of important things. Generally speaking and to simplify this by a crazy amount… you’ve got your physical body, which is, you know, your bones, blood, organs and things like that. And you’ve also got your mind and your spirit (which, again for simplicity, I’m grouping together) and these are made up of your personality, thoughts, values and beliefs. And just like we instinctively want to protect our physical body, so to do we seek to protect our spirit. We feel this need to justify ourselves and to determine and prove that the way we live and think is ok and acceptable… or at least, understandable, under the circumstances.
And that’s ok sometimes! Please, don’t read me wrong here. By no means am I suggesting that you shouldn’t be allowed to defend yourself. It can happen that some one will say something that’s a load of poo and you SHOULD defend yourself. Stand up for who you are! What you believe in! What you’re passionate about! Woo! Yeah! Get pumped!! But also… think carefully about what’s been said and what you are going to say or how you will respond. Will you respond?
Just like people can say things that are completely rubbish, people can say things that are really important… that can sometimes SOUND like rubbish, but really aren’t. We listen to things, read things, see things, through a tainted lens. We are defensive, which means we think everything is an attack… we are constantly waiting for life to try break us down, so we put up more walls. And that makes self-introspection really quite impossible.
How does a person grow and learn and change if they’ve reached a point when everything from the outside world is a threat? You can’t take anything on. You stand proudly with your walls that “protect” you… that keep you ignorant and arrogant and all manner of other things. It is a mistake to think that you have all the answers already and that you’ve got life sorted out, that no one else could possibly help you. This attitude is dangerous. It causes us to jump to conclusions and draw false understandings about something or someone without really listening at all. And in doing this we miss out on so much. God speaks to us in so many different ways… by shutting ourselves off from suggestion and challenge, we are potentially shutting ourselves off from the Lord’s quiet whisperings.
When we step out into the world to learn, we expose ourselves to so much. We need to drop our defensiveness, become vulnerable and thoughtful. Give God a chance to move in your life in maybe a way you didn’t even consider before… seek to learn and as you learn about His creation, you learn about Him too. Be patient, don’t react, but carefully consider with wisdom, contemplation and prayer. In everything there is a lesson to learn and in everything you will find the Saviour if you are willing to see Him. Let God out of His box! He is mightier than anything you ever imagined and He is waiting to be discovered to deeper levels than you ever knew existed. Don’t be defensive. Be curious, inquisitive and share! Share it all with the world! Fearless in Love.