My junior year of college I landed a great on-campus job at the Writer’s Resource Lab. I was an English major with an emphasis in Creative Writing, so helping other students hone their writing skills seemed like the perfect fit. Part of my role included tutoring international students in grammar and conversational English.
I was bright-eyed and eager walking through the large glass doors my first day. This will be a breeze! I thought. I’m good with people and confident in my writing abilities. I can’t wait to get started.
But as soon as that first appointment began it became quite clear that my personal experience as a proficient writer and native English speaker didn’t necessarily translate into proper teaching skills or sufficient knowledge of grammar mechanics. Turns out, I knew the how of language but couldn’t explain the why of it.
I remember the blank stare of the sweet Japanese girl sitting across from me after I corrected her verb tense. She asked, “What is the name of that rule and why is it so?” The only answer I had was a blank stare in return. By experience I knew I was correct. I knew what looked right on the page and what sounded right in speech, but I didn’t have the justification to back it up.
Sometimes experience alone isn’t enough.
When I read Paul’s words in today’s passage in Philippians I’m reminded of the importance of adding knowledge to experience in our spiritual lives.
“I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.” (Philippians 1:9 NLT)
The people of Philippi had experienced the power of the Gospel and the transforming love of Christ. They were Paul’s partners in spreading the Good News and had witnessed the work of the Holy Spirit in dramatic ways. But in the midst of spiritual blessing, Paul also knew that a life in Christ would be marked by trial. He knew that while some people would embrace the Truth, others would try to undermine it. Paul wanted his dear friends to be prepared in spirit and mind.
He went on to say, “For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.”
In my own life I have experienced God’s love and grace. I can tell stories of how I see His fingerprints marking up days in ways big and small. But when storms of life hit or someone questions my beliefs, what justification will I stand on?
Memories of my faith experiences may fade, but I can stand firm on the unshakable knowledge of God’s Word.
To get through my college tutoring job well, I gave myself a crash course in grammar. I quickly learned the mechanics and methodology behind the language I so easily spoke and wrote. It was a benefit to my students that I modeled proper English, but they also needed a knowledgeable teacher who could explain the reasoning behind it.
May we continue on with eager excitement in our study of God’s Word, assured that there is purpose and blessing in growing in our knowledge and understanding.
Today: Read Philippians 1:8-11