I constantly marvel at the fact that the more that I learn, the less I seem to know. I think it’s a direct result of opening myself up to new areas of knowledge which I am completely unfamiliar with and then the sudden realization that the world and universe are far greater, grander, and more expansive than my arrogant self ever imagined.
Paul’s letter to the church in Rome remains one of my all time favorite books in the Bible. In chapter 11 of that letter, Paul wrote, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”
While I have no qualms with trumpeting the things that I know and the talents I possess, I have been humbled over the years at the realization that I don’t know nearly as much as I think I do. Despite the three degrees that I possess from higher learning institutions, I don’t really feel like I know much. Engineering and theology, two vastly different areas of study to the average onlooker, are far more interrelated than I once thought, but the study of them has not led me to somehow be more enlightened than the rest of the world.
The early learning experience in my life in which I had this realization was when I was working at the local Texaco station in high school (I guess there are still Texaco stations around, but I haven’t seen one in years). In my upper middle class town in southwest Connecticut, I may very well have been the only one of my peers who was spending his Saturdays pumping gas, washing windows, and operating a cash register at a gas station.
I remember being fifteen years old and living in my upper class world, showing up to work on the first day and thinking that I was so far above all the people with whom I was working. Needless to say, I got knocked off that horse pretty quickly.
It didn’t take long for me to begin to see that the world was far bigger and more diverse than my little bubble. I may have excelled in certain areas of academics, but all these guys I worked with far excelled me in the practical area of fixing things and knowing their way around car engines.
It was a very humbling thing for me to begin to realize this, and I was so grateful to have come to that understanding at fifteen rather than fifty. I began to look at these guys around me with a newfound respect, knowing that the was a complimentary nature to our relationships and to the world. I may have known a lot about one area that they were unfamiliar with, but their knowledge and experience far surpassed my own in other areas.
As I’ve lived a number of decades since then, I can honestly say that the lessons I learned at a little Texaco station in Darien, Connecticut have stuck with me since then and have proved to be invaluable for the winding road that followed.
I can’t say that I don’t ever fall into the trap of thinking I know more than I do, it happens more than I would like to admit, but I’m getting better at stepping back and seeing people’s knowledge beyond my own knowledge and understanding. One thing is for sure, when I’ve taken the time to step back and think through the level of knowledge that others have to offer above and beyond my own, I’ve come out the other side far better and more knowledgeable than I started.