“None of the qualities of the Christian life can be learned out of a book. Something more like apprenticeship is required.” -Eugene Peterson
Oh how I love to read! I love reading, and my two favorite genres are Children’s Literature and Christian Living. Good books are such a treasure. They shine light on things in ways that I’ve never thought about before. They help me grow new dendrites. They have a way of letting me escape from the real world, allowing me to relax and challenging me to think deeper. I need books in my life, otherwise I know I wouldn’t think much about lots of different, very important topics. If I had it my way, I would read every evening for most of the expanse. It just recharges me.
If I did have it my way, I might have some great ideas because of the thousands of books I’d have read. But would I be better off because of it?
Book smart is admirable. There is much merit to being book smart, as I stated previously. But if I take some prime examples of book smart people throughout history, I see some problems. I think just mentioning a few examples might give you a nice mental image of what is so wrong with being book smart and lacking hugely in street smartness.
One that comes to mind is Carlton (see Fresh Prince). Whoa now, have you seen the guy try to hook a girl? Or perhaps bust a move? I didn’t even mention the perfection of his English, did I? He lacks the ability to walk the walk because he was too busy reading a book. Balance is necessary.
Another great example is the Pharisees. Whoooee, did they have their panties in a bunch. Memorize the law, read read read. Lots of “Isn’t it written’s” and “law of Moses’s” going on there. Those dudes were terrified of stepping out of the book bubble they became legalistic to the point of crucifying the Son of freakin’ God.
Books can get you into trouble. But so can the other extreme.
I strongly believe that tapping into the world of mentors and people who are farther along in their faith is absolutely priceless. Living life on life with people who are “doing it right” is one of the greatest assets you can give to yourself. If you don’t have someone that is pouring into you and that you are living your life with, it comes highly recommended. Being apprenticed by a more mature believer will help you grow by leaps and bounds if you let it. You can believe that your street smart skills will be in enhanced. But there is danger in this if we miss a few obvious facts.
- People aren’t perfect. All of us are fallen, there’s no denying that.
- Sometimes (or maybe more often than not) Christians get lazy. At least I know I do.
Having a mentor hopefully means you are being stretched. But unfortunately for the most part, people don’t actually have a mentor, and therefore they naturally rely on their pastor for the growth tool (which is also a great resource, but it can’t be the only resource). If I show up at church and just soak everything up that my pastor has to say and then accept all of it as truth without my own head getting around those thoughts, I can become quite disillusioned quite quickly. Pastor Such-and-Such is imperfect. Don’t put all your stocks in one place. You can sharply go astray if you aren’t careful.
There must be a balance between being book smart and this street smart. I must ask myself this question: How do I keep myself balanced between book smart and street smart?
Well it’s actually a pretty simple answer. Do both! We need someone who is willing to be a Paul to us Timothys. We also need to be backing up what they say with Scripture and with what other Christian greats have to say. Don’t believe everything you hear (unless it is God’s word!)!
This whole schpeel is easier said than done. This is hard work. I think of it like I’m balancing, standing in the middle of a teeter-totter. If I want both sides of the teeter-totter to be equal distances from the ground (perfectly balanced), then my legs and body can never relax. They are constantly in motion, trying to locate the perfect position to make both sides perfect. If I relax, then that means I got lazy and I’m doing one and letting the other one fall.
In closing, let both of these practices, the reading of quality books and apprenticeship, be helpful in our walking to be more like Christ.