Each culture and sub-culture will have a slightly different definition of what constitutes a ‘learning posture’. In my neck of the woods, I think reading is characteristic of learning. For some it will be taking online video courses, listening to podcasts. For others it will look like a regular conversation with a wise mentor.
We all learn in different ways. Some through listening, some through watching and others from doing. For myself I find it really helpful to talk out loud, or write things down, this helps my mind process what I’m learning.
However, despite the differences I think there are a few ingredients which make up the foundations of most ‘learning postures’. They are ingredients which have very little to do with how many books you’ve read this past month.
1) Receptivity. I like to think of myself as a receptive person. But the truth is, I am selective in my receptivity. I pick and choose who I will learn from and who I will ignore. Sometimes this may be for good reasons, and at other times it may be because of pride, arrogance or even prejudice.
I think God has designed the Church in such a way that we are all able to sharpen one another. We have various gifts, but each one of us is necessary to the proper functioning of the Body. I love the way Paul puts it in 1 Cor 12: ‘the parts of the body seem to be weaker are indispensable… and those that we think less honourable we bestow the greater honour, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modest….God has so composed the body, giving greater honour to the parts that lacked it’ (v22-24).
In our pursuit of a learning posture, we must cultivate the habit of receptivity. This might mean paying closer attention to someone’s sermon who you deem ‘boring’ or ‘out of touch’. It might be reading carefully a book by someone who sits on a different theological standpoint than you do.
2) Intentionality. Yes, we can all learn by accident and coincidence. But how much better to be intentional. This way will lead to learning faster and with more focus.
The truth is the world is filled with things for us to learn about. But not everything is beneficial for us to know. I love how Paul frames it in his letters. In one place he says: ‘avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless’ (Titus 3:9). Elsewhere he talks about such people having ‘an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words which produce envy’ (1 Tim 6:4).
Let us choose to study and learn the important things. Not the trivial.
Also with intentionality, is the recognition that if we don’t learn we move backwards. We become ‘stuck in our ways’, refusing to learn, grow or move on. We must intentionally approach learning otherwise it just won’t happen – at least to the degree and areas that we most need it.
3) Willingness to be uncomfortable. Learning is difficult, it can take us to places where we feel uncomfortable or out of our depths. But a learning posture learns that this is acceptable and good. It may involves sacrificing our morning sleep once a week, spending money on a course, book or conference. It may mean moving into a different part of town (or even the world). If we want to maintain a learning posture, we must be okay with the uncomfortable, the difficult.
I like to think of an elastic band, which will only fulfil it’s main job if it is stretched. Unless we are being stretched, it is likely we are not learning as much as we could.