The More I Learn

I must have been about twelve years old at the time.  My parents were involved in a local youth ministry called simply, The Coffee House.

I watched, attentively, as my father’s hand grasped the stick of white chalk to draw a  clean, neat circle on the chalkboard.

Looking out across the faces of the young men and women gathered to hear him teach God’s word, Papa said, “Everything inside the circle represents what I know.  Everything outside the circle represents what I don’t know.”

chalkboard 1Then, pointing at the chalk circle, “The circle itself represents what I realize that I don’t know.”

Papa then drew another circle, much larger than the first, and simply stated, “As my knowledge increases, so does my awareness of how much I don’t know.”

chalkboard diagram 2Such a simple lesson, yet so memorable!

I often recall that diagram and Papa’s words as I hear Christians defend their various positions, doctrines, and theological perspectives.

Studying God’s word and striving to understand the nature of God are good and godly pursuits.  So is sharing our perspective with others.  And, yes, we should speak with confidence of what we know and what God has shown us.  And we should be prepared to explain why we believe what we believe.

But we should also remain always teachable, always eager to learn new truths, or to see old truths from a new perspective!

Too often, I hear teachers and preachers state their views so dogmatically as to give the impression they believe they have it all figured out, and anyone who disagrees with them is either ignorant or stupid.  Too often, views of doctrine are stated with such an inflexible authoritative tone as to leave no room to hear another viewpoint expressed.  And too often, any differing viewpoints are quickly silenced rather than listened to or learned from.

When I hear those sorts of inflexible, dogmatic statements, I recall Papa’s chalk circle and think, “Wow!  You really don’t know very much, do you?”

These two things I know for certain about any person’s theology (including my own):  It is far from complete, and its view of God is far too small.

Man’s steps are ordained by the Lord,
How then can man understand his way?(Proverbs 20:24)

For I know that the Lord is great
And that our Lord is above all gods.
Whatever the Lord pleases, He does,
In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.
He  causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth;
Who makes lightnings for the rain,
Who brings forth the wind from His treasuries. (Psalm 135:5-7)

How big is your view of God?

[Linked to God Bumps , ScribingBeholding Glory , Graceful , Seedlings , Wellspring ]


32 thoughts on “The More I Learn

  1. God continually shows us more in His Word and allows us to see and know more about Him as we grow in faith. Thinking we have it all figured out limits what else we can learn from God, as well as limits how much we can grow to know God and His character.
    Enjoyed your post today!

    • “Thinking we have it all figured out limits what else we can learn from God, as well as limits how much we can grow to know God and His character.”

      So true, Laura!

      There is so much more to God than I will ever understand. Thinking I understand it all just limits my ability to learn.

      Thank you for that bit of wisdom!

  2. It’s so true! God is so much bigger than I imagine or think. There is so much I don’t know. This is a great reminder to temper all things with humility.

    • “…temper all things with humility”

      That’s it exactly, Christina! Being confident of what I know is good…so long as it is tempered with humility and the realization that I have much yet to learn…and some of what I now “know” may be more skewed than I realize.

      Thank you!

  3. I love that drawing, Joe — it speaks to the visual learner in me 🙂 And the older I get, the more I realize I don’t know. Which is good. It keeps me humble and in the Word.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Isn’t that a great diagram? I just love the simplicity of a diagramatic illustration. 🙂

      As an engineer who is often involved in teaching others, I find it almost impossible to talk without also drawing diagrams.

      That increasing realization of how much you don’t know is a good thing…it indicates you are still learning and still teachable!

      Thank YOU, Susan!

  4. I LOVE this diagram.

    I’m going to share it this weekend as one of the Unwrapping His Promises roundups.

    This part: But we should also remain always teachable.

    Exactly, amen.

  5. I love this post. With it, you (and your papa) have managed to illustrate beautifully one of my struggles with the church. (And I’m part of the church, so I’m admitting to struggling, at times, with myself.) I often feel overchurched from hanging out in the blogosphere, where Christians’ hurtful, judgmental statements are thrown around like truth. My favorite example of this is one from which I’ve been reeling for months: “No one does divorce well.” That’s a hard pill to swallow when you’re divorced and have–in a hundred ways–died a painful death to yourself to set yourself apart: to “do divorce well.” I get so riled up, just thinking about it. I’m learning to admit that–down the pike–I might feel differently on any given issue. I’m also learning to shut down other peoples’ voices and return to the Original Source. Because all of us–ALL OF US–reflect the light of Christ in a pale sort of way. Thank you for visiting my blog. I have thoroughly enjoyed my visit to yours.

    • Ouch! Words hurt, and, in this case, the words are just plain wrong!

      There is nothing inherently ungodly about divorce, and yes, by grace thru faith, one can walk in godliness while going thru divorce.

      Brandee, you have definitely hit on a pet peeve of mine!

      It sounds like you and I have had similar experiences in regard to divorce, and attitudes encountered within the church.

      Here are a couple of posts I’ve done on the topic that you might enjoy: and

      As well as one on my own personal pursuit of godliness in the midst of divorce:

      I know how much I’ve grown and learned thru that experience. I know how much my biblical views have been challenged and changed. Which means I am more aware of both how little I know and how much grace I need to have for those whose view is similar to what my own was just a few years ago.

      Thank you, so much, for stopping by and sharing your experiences!

      God bless you and your lovely family! I pray the little ones get well soon. Summer colds truly are miserable…

  6. He is “It”… and even if I lived to 150 [not an option], I would still need to be learning, adjust, coming to more understanding, and trying more and more again and again. The only right thing we can do? Focus on Him. Period. Nothing else counts forever. Many can be bright and understanding and wise… but they are human. Not perfect. [And I ain’t either, even though I like to think I am for a moment, here and there…]

    Thank you.

    • Amen!

      I love how you expressed it, Joanne!

      I have every expectation to spend the rest of eternity always learning more about Him, and being continually amazed.

      And, yes, “Focus on Him” is key!

      Thank you, so much, for sharing!

  7. I loved this. It reminded me of a conversation I had with a professor last night about a doctoral student I am supervising. I was struggling to explain my concerns about some of her counseling techniques & her receptiveness to supervision. He summed to all up when he said, “Well, I think her biggest detriment is that she doesn’t know what she doesn’t know!” BINGO! Everytime I think that I have surely bent low enough in humility, God shows me a whole new low where I need to go. Where I want to go, because He knows & I don’t & because i love Him.

    • “Well, I think her biggest detriment is that she doesn’t know what she doesn’t know!”

      That’s when it gets scary, doesn’t it? I recall feeling somewhat that way with over-confident teen drivers.

      And yes, humility is an endless lesson. I love how you put this:

      “Where I want to go, because He knows & I don’t & because i love Him.”

      Thank you!

  8. oh my, this is so, so true! indeed, the more we know, the more we realize that there is so much more that we don’t know. that’s a great diagram to illustrate that point and help us accept and love one another even when we don’t agree.

    • “…accept and love one another even when we don’t agree.”

      Yes! When I remain aware of how little I know, I’m much more tolerant of someone else’s differing viewpoint, even if I’m quite confident they’re incorrect. And…I’m also more likely to find nuggets of wisdom in conversing with them.

      Thank you, Peggy!

  9. This makes me smile. I remember the days when I thought I knew everything there was to know about everything. As each year passes, I realize that the area of things “I don’t know” is so.very.expansive, and ever-widening. And I’m perfectly fine with that. 🙂

    • Ain’t that the truth!

      I remember those days, myself, Jennifer! …and, today, those memories help me have grace for others in their unintended arrogance…

      When studying the infinite, it doesn’t make sense to start thinking we’ve got it all figured out.

      I sometimes wonder if that’s why the angels around the throne of God continually cry out, “Holy! Holy! Holy!”

      Is each “Holy!” an expression of wonder at a new aspect of God being revealed?

    • Yes, it almost feels like we’re moving backwards, at times, doesn’t it Falen?

      Each new insight spawns new questions…and casts doubt on old assumptions…

      Thanks for weighing in!

    • Yes, we all “see through a glass, darkly,” to quote the Apostle Paul.

      I also am very aware of how easy it is for me to get comfortable with my little circle of knowledge and choose to ignore all the things I don’t know. So important to remain teachable!

      Thank you, Laura!

  10. I remember a professor in Grad school saying that all his degrees did was make him more aware of how much he didn’t know. It’s so true. When taken properly, knowledge makes one humble because of this result.

    Great post. Feel free to give me a virtual kick in the pants if I ever get too dogmatic. 🙂 Although there are probably some hills I will die on! ha!

    Mary Beth

    • Hah! Same here, Mary Beth!

      It is a challenge, sometimes, not only for my own perception, but also for how I am perceived by others.

      To remain firm in my convictions, clear in my communication, confident in my explanations…yet not come across as a know-it-all to someone who disagrees with me on a given topic…

      I think maybe one of the keys is to remain eager to learn…and eager to understand another perspective, whether or not I agree with it.

      God bless!

  11. I love this illustration that your father used. I want to share it with my two oldest sons who are on the cusp of adulthood and yet feel as if they have the sagacity of a 70 year old! I’m amazed that you took this illustration in and understood its implications when you were so young, Joe. It tells me that your heart has been open for a very long time. Thanks for another thought-provoking post!

    • Ah, Adolesence! That time in our lives when we know the least…and believe ourselves to have everything of importance figured out…

      A perfect example of this principle!

      You know, I was a lot younger than most of the kids involved in The Coffee House. They were mostly between 15 and 25 years old. I was only around because my parents and older siblings were so involved. I doubt many of them realized how closely I paid attention.

      I’m glad I had the opportunity!

      Thank YOU, Beth!

    • I loved your post, Kathleen! Very well stated!

      I tried leaving a comment, but not sure it went thru…hopefully you won’t wind up with duplicates of the same comment…

      Thanks for stopping by and for sharing the post!

    • Yes, he does have a lot of wisdom.

      At 86, Papa doesn’t get around as well as he used to, and he doesn’t hear very well, but he still loves God’s word!

      Thank you, Laura!

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