No one is perfect, and in this great adventure we call life, we all have much to learn. Thankfully, we have God’s Word and the experiences of others to guide us.
Some time ago, I came across a quote that was attributed to Confucius, and it fits with this issue’s topic of investing in people and the importance of learning: “If your plan is for one year, plant rice. For ten years, plant trees. For a hundred years, educate people.”
A bit of further research showed that the Internet was mistaken, and the quote should actually have been credited to another Chinese philosopher named Guan Zhong. The exact translation is also slightly different, but the general meaning is the same, and I prefer the pithier version included above.
During a weekly spelling test with a class of first-graders, I noticed that one of my students, Cindy, hadn’t written anything on her test. “I can’t remember any answers!” she choked out through tears. I took her hand and led her outside to take a few deep breaths. Together, we went over the phonetic sounds of the spelling words I’d taught that week. With some coaching and encouragement, she returned to her desk and managed to recall two out of eight spelling words. She was relieved to have remembered that much, but the experience seemed to have dealt her shaky confidence a hard blow.
Life is often likened to going to school, and that’s a good analogy. God allows all sorts of things to happen in our lives to test us, to see how we’ll react to them, to teach us lessons, and to help us grow spiritually. His desire through all this, of course, is that we’ll apply ourselves, take the lessons to heart, learn from them, and live up to our full potential. In short, life’s tests are designed by Him to help us become the people He knows we can be.
My favorite railway in the world is Australia’s Indian Pacific. The line runs between Sydney on the east coast to Perth on the west coast, traversing a whole continent and connecting two oceans, the Pacific and the Indian. It spans a distance of 4,352 km (2,704 miles) and crosses three time zones—farther than London to Istanbul.
“The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.” This line, inviting us to a world of exploration, was penned by Robert Lewis Stevenson in A Child’s Garden of Verses, and my father often quoted it to me when I was young. He had an insatiable curiosity, and as I grew up, the stacks of books in our little house grew higher on every shelf and in every corner. If we wanted to know something, we got books and investigated or we found people who were knowledgeable in the subject. Besides the books, there were all types of crafts we were interested in at the moment—weaving and spinning and dying wool, wood and leather work, calligraphy, crochet, embroidery, and innumerable kits.
The great thing is to be found at one’s post as a child of God, living each day as though it were our last, but planning as though our world might last a hundred years.—C. S. Lewis (1898–1963)
If you can’t do great things, Mother Teresa used to say, do little things with great love. If you can’t do them with great love, do them with a little love. If you can’t do them with a little love, do them anyway.
—John Ortberg (b. 1957)
I came across a gem of an article from a 1997 Reader’s Digest about what was then the world’s largest-producing diamond mine—the Argyle mine, in Western Australia. At its peak, it yielded tens of millions of carats per year, including 90% of all pink diamonds.
The story begins in 1969. Nine diamonds were found in the Leonard River. The geologists figured there must be a significant deposit in the area—but where? Like all good mysteries, these early discoveries were only tantalizing teasers of what might be.
Some people think that everyone has a place in life, and we all just need to find our place and “fill” it. Others believe that we are all free to make our own way, follow our own truth, and decide of our own accord what and who to be.
In the end, regardless of which path they choose, many people end up desperately searching for their little niche at home, at work, or in their group of friends or community, and wedging themselves tightly in, so pleased to have found it, and hoping to settle in for life.
Have you ever noticed how some people can stay afloat when engulfed in troubles and hardships, while others sink to the bottom? What sets the swimmers apart from the sinkers? From what I’ve seen, the biggest factor seems to be faith in God’s love. When those who understand how much God loves them find themselves in over their heads, they know He won’t let them drown. So, unlike those who don’t have such faith, they don’t wear themselves out struggling just to keep their heads above water—or worse, panic and go down all the quicker. Buoyed by their faith, the swimmers can concentrate their energy on getting to solid ground.
Most parents will probably attest that one of the ongoing challenges of parenting is spending quality time with your children. What makes it especially tricky is that what defines quality time can be different with each parent and each child.
My eldest daughter loves to have a plan when it comes to spending time together. Her idea of quality “mommy time” requires advance knowledge of exactly what activities we will be doing and my active participation from start to finish.
Today a quiet piece of knowledge came to me. For a moment, I had a glimpse into the mind of my child, when she didn’t know I was watching, and I saw a side of her that isn’t normally obvious. She was fiercer than I normally see her, and I saw how differently she has interpreted some of her life’s experiences from what I expected.
When you hit bottom, when dreams give way to disappointment, when all you’ve worked so hard for goes to pieces, you are tempted to despair. In extreme situations you may be tempted to just give up and stop trying.
That’s when you must remember that you were created for a purpose, and that purpose isn’t a single, one-time thing; it’s multifaceted and complex. As long as you live, there will be something more you can accomplish, something more you are meant to accomplish, and there is always more to learn in life.