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“Wicked people despise the cost of growth”

I heard someone say this the other day, attributing it to Dan Allender and Tremper Longman. It really stuck to me. We like to think in terms of discipline when we consider the cost of growth, and that is certainly part of it. We can feel good about the cost of discipline as we understand its investment. But what if we have to go backwards some to go forward? What if part of the cost of growth is unlearning?

I’m learning to be grateful for unlearning. What misery it would be if we had to retain what we learn as certainty for our lifetimes! Unlearning is a part of learning. And this gives us freedom and humility, then, to explore who you are, Lord, and your world with your people.

Isn’t repentance also a form of unlearning? Dallas Willard paraphrases Jesus’ words in Matthew 4:17 like this: “‘Rethink your life in light of the fact that the kingdom of heaven is now open to all.’”[1] Because repentance is just that. It is a rethinking, seeing what’s real, turning towards it, shedding the counterfeit, and walking through the door. There’s an unlearning involved.

Artist Makoto Fujimura proposes that repentance is provoked by an encounter with the beautiful.[2] Think about that! Beauty beckons us into the realm of goodness. If we are to walk in, we find the reality of truth. Not just truth’s propositional statements—the reality of it. And we are free to deconstruct all the false striving we have done to find it. To grieve that. Our grasping fingers find the strength to let go of all the imitations.

What a gift unlearning is! To see that God is so much bigger. So much more abundant than our scarcity containers.

Learning with the finitude of our pre-resurrection bodies involves unlearning—and we have so much more to learn! Think about the way God designed the neuroplasticity of our brains for this! And how our minds depend on connections with other minds to even learn about ourselves. I get to unlearn and learn more about myself too.

Why is it so hard to say, “I was wrong”? To admit, that something is off in the story we are telling to ourselves?

The gift of unlearning frees us to take risks. To lead with love. To be curious and empathetic. In light of the fact that the kingdom of heaven is open to all. To even be intimately known by others and God. Unlearning can help us to experience God. We can shed the things we thought limited him and his love.

Thank you Lord, that this middle-aged woman can be blessed and bless others with unlearning. Thank you that the truth of who you are transcends my own certainty. “If beauty represents an invitation to the real, and goodness our involvement in it in freedom, truth above all is our reception of reality, on its terms. It is for this reason a living relationship, one with the capacity to transform.”[3]

[1] Willared, Divine Conspiracy, 300.

[2] See Makoto Fujimura, Culture Care, (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP, 2017), 49, 54.

[3] Schindler, Love and the Postmodern Predicament, 81, emphasis original.