Knowing that I Don’t Know…Yet

Today is day 41 of our 40 day sugar fast. Yes, that means it’s over. I broke my fast last night with a big bowl of ice cream, an Oreo cookie, and a can of Coke. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t as satisfying as I thought it would be. However, it didn’t disappoint me either…because I wasn’t looking to those sweet treats to fill me up in a meaningful way like I was prone to do in the past.

Yesterday morning, on the final day of the fast, I was journalling, and I’ll admit I was struggling with a bit of disappointment that there hadn’t been any major breakthroughs during the 40 days. There were definitely quiet lessons the Lord taught me along the way…but no earth shattering deliverance or complete freedom realized. I was making some notes about something I had read that really resonated with me, something that hit directly on an area of my life I need to make some changes in. But I was feeling frustrated because it still felt vague and fuzzy in my brain. I could sense a need but was unable to articulate it or see any solutions. It felt a bit like sitting in the middle of a dark room, knowing there was a way out into the light but not knowing in which direction to turn. It was discouraging, and I ended my journal entry by asking God to lead me to the right resource to enlighten and equip me.

Then I picked up Consider This by Karen Glass and read chapter 4. It was exactly what my discouraged, unknowing heart needed! She was reminding me of the role that humility plays in education. We often associate humility with spiritual growth, but it’s necessary in our intellectual life as well. If we are humble, we are teachable; but when intellectual pride sets in, we cease to be open to learning.

Humility as a stepping stone to wisdom was foundational in classical education. Socrates recognized humility as a necessary precursor to wisdom. His mission in life was to convince men of their ignorance because knowing that you don’t know is the first step toward knowing. It seems so obvious, doesn’t it? But how often do we block the flow of discovery and enlightenment with our proud or dismissive attitudes? Just think of how much more we would learn if we kept our hearts and minds open in a sort of reverential awe to the world around us, to nature, to God, to His Word, to books, to others.

I think Wordsworth understood this attitude toward life, toward creation, toward the Creator. This poem jumped out at me this morning as I read his description of a herdsman drinking in a magnificent sunrise. He wrote:

There littleness was not; the least of things
Seemed infinite; and there his spirit shaped
Her prospects, nor did he believe,–he saw.
What wonder if his being thus became
Sublime and comprehensive! Low desires,
Low thoughts had there no place; yet was his heart
Lowly; for he was meek in gratitude,
Oft as he called those ecstasies to mind,
And whence they flowed; and from them he acquired
Wisdom, which works thro’ patience; thence he learned
In oft-recurring hours of sober thought
To look on Nature with a humble heart,
Self-questioned where it did not understand,
And with a superstitious eye of love.

from “The Excursion” by William Wordsworth

Have we forgotten to look on nature with a humble heart? To be patient while wisdom does her work? To be meek in gratitude? To question when we do not understand? This foundational idea of humility in education might have been obvious to teachers and learners in the classical world, but I think it’s something we need to rediscover in the twenty first century. It’s tricky though. There’s no step-by-step plan we can lay before our children to ensure they cultivate humility. It’s difficult to test for or measure progress when it comes to attitudes. Like all attitudes, humility is more “caught” than “taught.” It’s a mindset. It’s a “heartset”! And isn’t that where all the issues of life spring from? The heart!

So, as a mom, as a teacher, this forces me to ask myself how my attitude is. What spiritual and intellectual virtues are being “caught” in my home? I suddenly realized that the discouragement I had been journalling about was actually cause to rejoice. I had recognized I didn’t know something. I could have just as easily ignored it, dismissed it, or denied it. But instead, I had admitted that I didn’t know. I had taken that first necessary step on the journey to discovery. I’ve never been the type to “enjoy the journey” as they say. I’m so task oriented that I prefer the destination; I love to accomplish things and check them off my list. But wisdom is a journey of a lifetime! It’s a million surrenders and a million discoveries. So I better get comfortable with my own ignorance.

When I shared these thoughts with a friend yesterday, she wisely pointed out that only humility can find joy in such a journey. And if there’s one thing I need on this challenging journey, it’s JOY! Having vague notions but no explanatory words or sensing problems but not seeing any solutions might not feel very comfortable. But at least I’m recognizing that I don’t know. And that’s really the only thing that can pave the way to ever knowing! God, keep me humble, keep me open. Everyone, everything everywhere might have something to teach me, and I don’t want to miss it by being fooled by my pride or by being discouraged by all the things I don’t yet know.

2 thoughts on “Knowing that I Don’t Know…Yet

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