When we are in school we study and practice to learn a thing. And then we are tested to demonstrate we have mastered it.
And so it goes in our spiritual life as well. We study the Word, then we have opportunities to practice what we think we have learned. But then final test day comes. We are cornered, trapped at our spiritual desk, pencil in hand, moment of truth set before us to prove ourselves. Have we committed the skill to long term memory, truly learned the lesson?
I had such a test recently. As old as I am, I continue to be examined.
Our chimney needed cleaning. I did a small amount of research and, of course, I opted for the least expensive offer. I had a coupon, which made it a bit cheaper still. I set up the appointment and the day arrived.
Two very nice men came and within less than a minute the lead guy informed me my chimney was in very bad shape and needed more service, a chemical treatment that would cost $39.95 extra and additional ongoing treatment with chemicals in a tube added to the next three fires, at $20 each, that he could provide, of course. In retrospect I can see the speed at which this diagnosis was made and then applied was orchestrated to prevent me from having too much time to think about it. That the whole service was quick is an understatement.
In less than 20 minutes, the two skilled workers vacuumed the ash from my fireplace, shoved a wire brush up the two floors of chimney pipe, supposedly sprayed a chemical up into the darkness, turned on the gas jet ‘to warm it up’ and left to go over to my daughter’s house to do the same thing. Not too surprisingly they found all sorts of things wrong with her chimney as well. When she called me to complain they had dropped ash and coals on her new rug and yet she had to ask them to clean it up, I started to feel as though we had been had. But when she said they were gone and I realized they weren’t coming back to finish the job at my house was when fury welled up in me.
I called the number to see if they were returning to put the heavy grate back, that they had left outside on my front steps, and recheck the job the ‘chemical’ had done and then turn off the gas. He answered and seemed shocked I had called and replied they were finished. I am not a hot head and never have been but I instantly responded in angered tone, asking him if putting the grate back was not part of the service I had paid for. He said, as though he were doing me a favor, that he would come back, and I replied, no thanks I’ll do it myself and hung up.
So this was the multiple answer test before me on my spiritual desk:
A) Call the company and make a formal complaint.
B) Put a one star rating and rant on their website
C) Let it go.
I chose C because deep inside of me there is a well of knowledge that has been building for seven decades into a fine-tuned instinct. This knowledge was not gained or is even knowable without practice. Lots of practice. Like doing a 100 math problem sheet or writing a 2000 word essay with proper grammar, the embedding of ‘how to’ comes only from practical experience.
The deep knowledge that must be tested in order for us to know that we have graduated to the next level of learning is revealed in how we respond but it’s also complex and the answer isn’t always as absolute as math or conjugating a verb. Sometimes the test is about our willingness to let go and let God handle the ending and sometimes the test is about our strength of will to stand up against evil.
Discerning which is which is a language arts skill. Listening to and correctly interpreting the still small voice and then responding appropriately determines our advancement to the next grade.
Hebrews 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.