Have you ever felt like you have mastered something? Like you know how to do something and you do it well?
Perhaps there is a recipe for a favourite dessert that you know by heart and make for all special occasions. Maybe you play an instrument and you’re so confident and content, that you can just close your eyes and play.
You might feel this way about your job, or your degree. You know your stuff. You’re good at it. Others might even recognise your ability and success.
Once upon a time, you were learning. But now, you are an expert.
What we praise, we raise
You know, when a kid is really good at a sport or music, or a teenager is excelling in an activity they have done their whole life, people say things like ‘oh he left the womb with a football at his feet’. ‘Oh yeah she was singing before she could talk or walk’. ‘Yeah he could do this slightly complex task before he could do this key milestone’.
We, for some reason, often tend to overlook the years of hard working and learning that kids put into their craft and instead say they were born with their ability. We praise them for being born with so much talent! We praise them for having talent, and for being so good at what they do.
We raise up our kids and ourselves to think that we need to be good at something. I think that the narrow focus of praising people who are really good at an activity can then lead us to raising up the idea that your worth comes from what you are good at, and we raise people with the pressure to be good.
But, blessed are those who have learned
I came across Psalm chapter 89, verse 15 recently as it was one of the verses at the end of my new devotional on two different days. It says:
“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you”.
Now I know the first says learned, as in past tense. But I got really excited, and still do get excited, by reading this verse and knowing that, well, I don’t need to master the activity of acclaiming, of praising God. I don’t need to be ‘really good’ at it.
Instead, I can learn to acclaim God. Instead, it is something I can work on over time, and improve on. I can practice, I can humbly give it a go in all my limitations and develop a deeper understanding, ability and posture to sing my praises and shouts my acclaims of God.
God doesn’t necessarily expect us to have left the womb with the fully developed ability to praise him. God probably doesn’t put the pressure on us to be able to acclaim him before we even know what we are acclaiming him for.
Not a call for perfection
One of the many things I love about my church is that we have a phrase plastered on one of the walls, and part of it says ‘nobody’s perfect’.
No, it’s not just for decoration - I can recall many times that my senior pastor, Grant, has shared in his sermons that we aim to be a church where nobody is perfect [cos it’s Jesus who is perfect]. And there is so much freedom in acknowledging that.
Yes, we can strive for excellence and we can work hard to produce good work. We learn and develop skills. But we aren’t perfect. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. Heck, if anyone knows we are not perfect, it is God, because he sent us Jesus.
And so when we realise that we are blessed to learn, to be learning, to have learned, and that there isn’t a call for perfection, perhaps then we can tune out the noise of the world that tells us that it values mastery. We can stop believing the false message that our worth comes from how good we are at tasks and skills.
We can in live in the freedom of the blessing of learning, and not suffer under the pressure of having to be good at something.