I’m really into learning. In fact, I like to think of myself as a ‘life-long learner’, and every new year want to make a fresh commitment to that pursuit. Last year I read 148 books. But I missed my goal of 160 by twelve books. I don’t read all books at the same speed. Many novels I can read quite fast, but it has taken me many months to get through several volumes of a biography. Reading this many books a year didn’t happen overnight for me, but I built up to that for a long time. So don’t get discouraged. One time in India I met a man who read one book a day, or 365 books a year. Now that almost discouraged me! The most I’ve ever read in one year was 250, and that only happened once.
But reading books is not the only kind of learning. We all learn differently. Being a life-long learner means to be attentive to all that is around us: people, creation, events, our own lives and inner processes, and so much more. The growing field of brain science research tells us that keeping our brains agile and fresh late in life involves in part a commitment to continuous learning of new things.
Learning from other people is certainly one of the most common ways. Usually we think of that as learning from those that are older than us, at times from mentors that whether intentionally or unintentionally are imparting lessons that impact us. I have had several mentors that were older or more experienced than me that gave me important guidance at key times in my life. There is a strong gratefulness in me for each of them, and I am a better person today because of those mentors.
But it is also important to understand that we can be mentored by those that are younger than us. In the 2008 book by Earl Creps titled Reverse Mentoring: How Young Leaders Can Transform the Church and Why We Should Let Them, the author writes of this ‘reverse mentoring’ process. I am just starting this book, so later I may have more to write about it. But the idea of learning from those younger resonates deeply with me and my life experience. And as we get older, there are more and more to learn from all the time!
One example is my two beautiful and gifted daughters. I have learned so much from them in several areas. One obvious area is technology. How many times my wife and I have been stuck with a problem on our computer or phone, only to have one of our daughters sort us out! I have also been corrected by my daughters when I have been too critical, and thankfully have had the grace to humble myself and yield.
My wife and I have had the great blessing of being for the last 40 years with an organization that has lots and lots of youth. So I am around very often people much younger (now) than me. I have heard them teach and learned much. I have seen their lives and the way they respond to suffering, sometimes in some of the most difficult places on earth, and I have learned new ways of joy in the midst of pain.
I have been mentored by the young(er). What a gift this is. To be able to learn how to learn from those younger, poorer, less privileged than I am. Countless lessons have come in my life in this way. Because learning requires a humility to say ‘I don’t know’. Life-long learning is a commitment to life-long humility. Allowing myself to be ‘reverse mentored’ by the powerless, the weak, the needy, those different in countless ways.
As 2020 starts, a new year and a new decade, I commit myself again to a life-long learning in reverse mentoring, to an upside down kingdom that does not lead by power but by love and humility.
Will you join me?