This time of year my Facebook feed is full of photos of kids headed back to school. Lots of stores have specials for "back to school season." Many churches which ended Sunday school classes over the summer are starting back up again. But back to school isn't just for kids and their parents. This time of year is an invitation to all of us to renew our learning and growth.
One time a man asked Jesus which commandment is the greatest. The Gospel of Mark records Jesus’ answer, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’” (Mark 12:29-30).
Did you catch that? "All your mind." When Jesus was asked about the most important thing to do, he said that we should love God with our whole being, including our minds.
Too many people check out of learning about their faith. We don't take courses, we don't read books, and we don't wrestle with ideas that might push us to change or grow. And, yet, how can we love God with our minds if we don't use our minds?
Without adult learning, we’re left to make sense of adult problems with a child’s faith. A mature faith helps us face life’s difficulties and it can even help us love difficult people. Deep faith, nourished by knowledge and inquiry, is not only more robust, but it is more vibrant.
If your church offers adult education courses, take a look! Sign up! If not, maybe a nearby church offers something that can feed your mind. If courses aren't your thing, how about reading a book about faith? There are loads of them. Your local bookstore has plenty of books on faith, and so does your public library. Ask a friend or your pastor for suggestions.
If you don’t like to read and you don’t like to take classes, don’t despair. There are loads of podcasts and YouTube videos and apps that can teach us about faith and provoke us to learn and to grow.
In my time as a parish priest, I met with lots of families facing a crisis of some kind — a death, a job loss, a broken relationship, a health problem Too often, their brittle faith was shattered by the normal tragedies of human experience. And it’s no wonder. Without adult learning, we’re left to make sense of adult problems with a child’s faith. A mature faith helps us face life’s difficulties and it can even help us love difficult people. Deep faith, nourished by knowledge and inquiry, is not only more robust, but it is more vibrant. We discover new ways to praise God and more reasons to thank God.
Whatever you do, I urge you to find a way to recommit to learning and to growth in this back to school season. I know that in my own life, when I manage to love God with my mind, it helps me to love God with my heart and my soul, and to love my neighbors too.
Lord knows, our world could use more love.
Scott Gunn is an Episcopal priest and serves as executive director of Forward Movement. He is co-author of Faithful Questions: Exploring the Way with Jesus. You can follow him on Twitter @scottagunn or read his blog at www.sevenwholedays.org.