Becoming a Lifelong Learner

by Mark Votava


I used to not like reading very much.  I took for granted all the elementary teachers who taught me how to read when I was younger.  As I have grown up, I am learning to become a lifelong learner through reading and the practice of relational living in a particular place.  Reading has become a gift to me and I am fortunate enough to have this ability in my life.

  •  Seeking God through learning

We all need to be seeking God in a way where we are becoming passionate about becoming lifelong learners as the body of Christ in everyday life in the parish.  If we do not take on a posture of becoming lifelong learners, through the study of books and relational context, we will not have the wisdom necessary to create any kind of a counterculture among us.  One of the greatest gifts of the Holy Spirit is the ability to read.

  •  The gift of literacy

How neglected is the gift of literacy among us, for those of us who can read.  It is much easier to watch a movie, TV or surf the internet.  But books are a gift from God.  There is so much I have learned from mentors, dead and alive, who have written about their wisdom.

  • Learning wisdom from others

I think about Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Ivan Illich, Jacques Ellul, Wendell Berry, Parker Palmer, Richard Rohr, Henri Nouwen, Simone Weil, Michael Frost, Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Mark Scandrette, John McKnight, Dwight Friesen and many others.  There is so much wisdom out there if we will have the imagination to read and learn from others in this way.  As we learn this sacred wisdom, we have an opportunity as the body of Christ to bring an expression of beauty into our locality.  Some of the greatest moments of my life have been reading subversive texts that help me to have an expansive imagination for something more than what I have known.

  • The importance of lifelong learning  

What if becoming a lifelong learner was important to us as the body of Christ in the parish?  What if we saw learning as a practice of following Christ?  Before we learn from Christ, there are a lot of things we need to unlearn.

  • The practice of unlearning

We need to unlearn our individualism, consumerism, fragmentation, mobility, disconnection and division among us.  We need to unlearn unhealthy ways of being in relationship with others.  We need to unlearn our illusions about the “real world” that we live in.

  • Unlearning what we think we know

Christ is always teaching us by his wisdom in the parish.  He is teaching us how to be subversive in the midst of the empire.  We need to have the mystical imagination to become lifelong learners in all aspects of life.  Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch say, “So much of what we think we know needs to be unlearned…”

What are some of the things that you are unlearning?