I’ve always been training for something. It started early. My mother called it ‘potty” training. Today, the more progressive term is toilet training. Mom claimed it took me a long time. I was a slow learner. Not sure when I learned, but suspect it was when I decided it was preferable to use the “potty” rather than sit in wet and dirty diapers. The lesson was probably instilled more by my suffering, than my mother’s pleadings.
Effective training is grounded in experience, not lecture, books or even observance. I was trained to ride my bicycle by trying and falling, not watching my friends ride. Water skiing and other physical skills required the same. Learning cursive took practice. I still remember the drills of writing each letter over and over.
I thought I had been trained in college to be a chemical engineer, but my real training came when I began working as an engineer. I found that the academic world had little resemblance to the reality of a chemical plant or refinery. Only experience could complete my training.
Sometimes real world practice is too dangerous, so experience is gained with simulated reality. Pilots training in a simulator can learn to deal with a variety of virtual problems, but will only become experts after years of flying. Things happen that weren’t programed in the simulator. Sully Sullenberger never practiced losing both aircraft engines and landing his plane in the Hudson River.
My father and his brother were in the Marine Corps and didn’t refer to their boot camp experience in loving terms. It was tough, but nothing could fully prepare them for the shock of combat.
And so it goes. While we are always in training, we try to select training that relates to our goals in life. This curriculum is designed by our ego. Training on skills that will make money, influence people or allow one to drive a car, and so on.
The curriculum intended by God has a different focus. He gave us a textbook and a teacher. Many have read the textbook, but have found following the instructions too hard. It’s not easy to learn love, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, kindness, listening, humility and empathy. Like many others, my ego’s curriculum was all about me.
God’s curriculum can require us to experience human suffering and tragedy. It reminds us that the best aspects of our humanity emerge when we must sacrifice to help others. This was evident in the response to hurricane Harvey. Love was the force that caused thousands of people to take risks to help everyone affected. All people were aided, not just the ones who voted like us, looked like us or believed like us. The help was unconditional. It was a training lesson to become an angel. Difficult experiences are rehearsals for our place in heaven.
I don’t appreciate that God allows tragedy, pain and suffering. He could prevent these things, but chooses not to. I think He wants us to work through the situations ourselves, with His support. That’s how we learn.
Though some people complete God’s training while still on earth — people like Mother Theresa — most of us are not great students. We want to take the easy road and wait for God to do the hard work, fix us, and then graduate.
I like the thought by Charles Handy, from his book, Waiting for the Mountain to Move.
“It reminds me of Kierkegaard’s story of the traveler in the hill country who came to a village to find his road onward blocked by a mountain. So he waited for the mountain to move. Years later he was still there, old now and white-haired, still waiting. Then he died.
Kierkegaard’s point is that God doesn’t move mountains, we climb mountains with God’s help. Don’t therefore look for Him, or His agent outside. Look for him inside, in you, and using His eyes find new bits of you which you never knew were there.”
God is helping find my strengths to cope and succeed. He wants me to change my perspective about what is really important in life, love and relationships, not financial success, fame or materialism. I will grow stronger and achieve more, because of life’s challenges. Just like those responding to Harvey, I will discover hidden strengths and virtues that I never recognized before.
God is trying to train me to be an angel. I can’t be a good angel without the right experiences here on earth. I may still be a slow learner, but I’m finally beginning to get the picture!