I recently read an interesting article which shared research about children and their learning in school. The article noted that parents should not ask their kids, “What did you do in school today?” Rather, the research found that parents should ask their children, “What did you learn in school today?” Researchers found that the latter question helps children to integrate their learning into their lives more fully. The theory behind that research is this: It doesn’t take much cognitive effort to remember what I did today, but asking me what I learned today requires me to remember the activities of this day and also to make sense out of those activities.
I found that research intriguing, and it certainly seems to make sense. I can remember my own parents asking me the “What did you learn?” question quite often – even after I had been disciplined, corrected, or punished. In fact, I can remember not especially enjoying it when my parents disciplined me for doing something wrong and then asked me, “What did you learn from this?” I did not enjoy giving an answer (which I was required to do verbally), and I discovered that the answer, “I learned I shouldn’t get caught” was not an acceptable answer!
Seriously, something in our human make-up needs time to pause, reflect, and put together our activities in a way that helps us to learn and to integrate our learning into our lives.
All of which leads me to ask our United Methodist Church a very hard question, “What does God want us to learn from our divisions over the issue of homosexuality?” It is easy to get into the “activities” kind of response, and it is especially easy to move into the combative responses about who is right and who is wrong on a tough issue like this. But perhaps the better question is, “What are we learning?” or even more importantly, “What does God wants us to learn?”
I don’t know the answer to that question, but I suspect that seeking an answer to that question will guide us in more helpful ways than the current political divisions which seem not to be helping the church. Let me offer some further questions:
- Are we learning the importance of a thorough grounding in the Wesley quadrilateral of Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience as we seek the truth on this and other issues? I read many, many comments and arguments which clearly only draw upon one of the sides of the quadrilateral and ignore the other aspects.
- Are we reading Scripture on this and other issues for our edification and formation, or just to support our own particular arguments? Wesley urged a reading of “the whole of scripture” and he believed that the totality of scripture is not divided, if only we continue to seek its full revelation.
- Are we learning to treat all people with the compassion and love of Christ on this issue, including those with whom disagree?
- Are we learning to disagree without becoming disagreeable?
- Are we learning to stand before God with an attitude which says, “I could be wrong, so please correct my errors”?
- Are we learning to argue about this and other issues in a way which edifies the church rather than divides the church?
As I said, I don’t know the answer to all of those questions, but I find it helpful to ask myself, “What did you learn today?”
And I pray: Lord, teach me your ways and help me to walk in them. Amen.