Describing my relationship with learning requires some illustration. When I learn I see myself as a particularly zealous driver of the “struggle” bus. It is painted many colors to represent the storm of emotions that come with learning. The back is plastered with cheesy bumper stickers that contain catchy slogans about procrastination and perfectionism. My passengers include various bits of knowledge from many different areas, and they have learned to wait patiently while I delay our departure with Netflix and silly phone games. Once we finally take off the journey is a long one. We hit some potholes and bumps. There are a few flat tires. Some sleepless nights. But without the difficulties we would never reach our final destination, my heart. The knowledge files off the bus and run to their home where they frolic, and romp, and scurry. Their ceaseless zest reminds me that God is sovereign and he has put me on this earth for a reason— to use my mistakes and consequent knowledge for His glory. Though the trip is long and arduous, it is well worth it in the end. Despite the fact that I could probably write a book about the experiences God has led me to in learning, there are five lessons that really stand out in my mind.
Lesson 1— Competition
In the fourth grade a boy in my class decided to read the Harry Potter book series by J.K. Rowling. This may not seem very important, but for me it was. “Why?” you might ask. Well here’s the thing, those books are big. Much bigger than the Nancy Drew books I had been working through. Naturally, I had to start reading the Harry Potter series as well in order to be better than him. It was that series which really sparked my love for reading. Though my motivation was totally self-centered, God used those books to lead me down a path (or a bus route, perhaps) to want to become a high school English teacher. Better yet, that was not the only lesson God revealed to me. Another that I am still striving to grasp today is that competition should only be held within yourself instead of with others. Someone is always going to be prettier, stronger, or faster than you. That is a fact of life. So instead of trying to compare myself to standards set by the world, I will instead compete to become better than myself— spiritually, mentally, and physically.
Lesson 2— Inspiration
My love for reading was cemented in my elementary school days, but recognizing my calling to enter into the realm of English education would not come to pass for another six years. In my sophomore year of high school God put a woman in my life that would become a role model and mentor, both in the classroom and out. She was my English teacher and a youth leader at the church I had (at that point) just started attending. Her humor, dedication, and passion inspired me every day in her class. As did her ability to accomplish the impossible, which is also known as making “Macbeth” entertaining to a gaggle of sixteen year olds. It was because of her that I learned to love language arts and teaching. But the most important lesson God taught me using her is how to show God’s love through your own. She was passionate about her career, her students, and her faith above all and it radiated in everything she did. As a result, she helped to plant the seeds that inspired my own love for God. Someday I hope to have an impact on others like she had on me.
Lesson 3— Faith
My English teacher was one of many sources of inspiration for my faith, and I still remember the night that faith was realized like it was yesterday. I had driven over my old, blue ’97 Ford Taurus named Dimples (courtesy of a couple hundred hail dents) over to my best friend Ben’s house and parked it in the driveway where we talked. I was complaining and griping and worrying over the possibility that I might finish the third quarter with a B in Algebra II— perfectionism is an ugly thing, my friends— while he just sat quietly and listened. When I had finally finished my rant, Ben looked into my eyes and simply said, “Jessica, you need more Jesus in your life.” His words really rang through my heart. That night I went home and for the first time prayed about what I had been hearing my pastor preach about for the last six months, the Gospel message. I thought about Jesus being crucified, dying, buried, and then rising again. God opened my heart, and I believed it with every fiber of my being. Still do, as a matter of fact. That night was a new beginning for the rest of my life, but the real learning has come every day since. Because I am a believer of Jesus Christ, my ultimate goal is to strive to be Christ-like so that my life bears witness to the ultimate sacrifice He made for us. This is no easy task being as I am a dirty, stinking sinner. But nonetheless God is working within me every day, teaching me to humble and helping me carry my own cross.
Lesson 4— Effort
Though I strive to be Christ-like, I fall short in many ways. One of the most difficult examples of this has come through my high school career in sports. In addition to being a follower of Christ and a Secondary English Education major I am also a lover of sports. Volleyball, basketball, and track & field are my favorites of all. Each of these sports has been a huge part of my life since kindergarten, and that is not an exaggeration. My father is an educator and coach who participated in both college football and track & field and he instilled a hunger for competition within me at a young age. Some of my fondest memories from childhood come from when my father was an athletic director at the local high school, and after games while he worked in his office I would run around the gym shooting hoops and trying to serve a volleyball over the net. I never stopped loving sports, but in high school I didn’t always make them a priority. I worked hard, but I stopped going the extra mile (no pun intended). As a result I was a good athlete, but I never got a shot at what I wanted most— the chance to participate in the state championships. This is something I will regret for the rest of my life, but I take solace in knowing that it was and is all under God’s control. When I look at it from a God-centered perspective, I also realize that from this I have learned an important lesson in effort. Time on this planet is short, and it all could be over in a second. Because of this I am now trying to give 110% in all that I do.
Lesson 5— Appreciation
High school sports might be over, but my journey in college has only just begun. My first year of higher education was wonderful in many ways. I made friends and memories. I explored freedom and knowledge. I connected with professors and courses. And I also enjoyed many a late night McDonald’s run (because it just wouldn’t be college without the freshman fifteen from chicken nuggets, am I right?). I learned so much. Do not let me fool you into thinking this was an easy transition for me, though, because it was not entirely. Although I love to learn, in order to take in life like I did I had to embark on a journey to overcome a hindrance. Perfectionism. I am still am on the journey to this day, but with God’s help it is always getting better. Learning to let go and let God has been difficult for me, but through the process I have acquired the all important knowledge that worrying about the future is a waste. If I am not living in the moment, then I am not fully taking part in this precious life that God has blessed me with. Not everything needs to be perfect, it only needs my appreciation and thankfulness.
I will keep driving the struggle bus for the rest of my life, continuously traveling the worn path to drop off more passengers at my heart. Whether the knowledge is acquired through mistakes or passion or anything in between, it is all valuable in my pursuit to become a lifelong learner. There are more experiences to be had. More lessons to learn. I know that God will continue to put me on the path that I need to be on, educating me in His ways as we go, helping to shape me into the learner and Christian I am today. So all aboard; there is always room for one more.