Someone I highly respect was praying for me the other day and in her prayer she said “all Deb’s education, and qualifications are nothing….”
This would seem shocking – but then she went on – “…if she doesn’t love you.”
Education does break down barriers, it creates opportunity… but it can also become an idol.
As we go through our own ongoing education, or as we support those around us navigating exams, coursework, school, university etc… How do we view education?
I know of people who lie awake at night worrying about failing, about getting a lower grade than is expected of them, or that they expect for themselves… I know of people who stop everything for prolonged periods so they can study night and day… Or the opposite – people who ignore all homework and study so they can say they didn’t try and so have an excuse for not doing well… I’ve at times probably done all of these things! This all comes from the pressures we pile on as a society, it comes from giving education, success and qualifications a position it doesn’t deserve.
This is coming from someone with GCSEs, A-levels, a degree, a masters… someone who loves reading, and who on the whole has enjoyed education… I am not saying education is nothing, full stop.
I am saying it is not our God. Donald did a great talk titled “working for what lasts” which goes into this more. I found it incredibly helpful when someone asked me this week – explain to me your calling, is what you are looking to achieve just a career development or is it a calling from God? That conversation and Donald’s talk combined are what brought me to share these thoughts…
When our lives become controlled by our education, or by furthering our career – when that dictates what we do or don’t do – when academic or career achievement is the deciding factor… we need to step back and reflect – what is that achievement for? What is our chief aim in life? What will we look back on our lives and wish we had invested more in? It may be that education was helpful in achieving that aim, but I doubt very much that it will be fulfilling as our one main aim…
Someone sent me a picture they saw on linkedin – it’s good advice – “begin with the end in mind” it reads – what is our aim, where are we heading? The difference is that this post is encouraging us towards our own personal success – and it implies that we can determine what will happen if we work hard enough. COVID has taught us to know better than that.
But we can have an aim in sight which will put education, success and all the other gods we are tempted to worship in perspective. The Westminister catechism says: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”
The lady that prayed for me went on to quote this prayer – generally attributed to St. Francis – let’s reflect on the words of this. And as we consider what we are giving our lives to achieving – think how these goals might be affected by the words of this prayer:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.