By Phil Bell Retired pastor University Baptist Church
Yes, that’s what the title says, “Am I crazy Or Just a Slow Learner?” Most of us have asked that question at some point in our lives, maybe more than once!
Two days ago was Groundhog Day. I can’t tell you whether or not Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow or not, because I’m writing this substantially prior to February 2nd. I am hoping he didn’t, for I’m ready for spring and saying good-bye to wearing coats and being cold. When I go out on February 2nd, I purposely, avoid casting a shadow, so Macomb Phil won’t be scared and return to his man cave to wait out six more weeks of winter!
I would imagine, most of us have seen the movie, “Groundhog Day,” starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. In it, Murray’s character, a TV weatherman, is sent to Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to cover the groundhog’s emergence. Once there, he keeps living the exact same day over and over again! Every morning he awakens to Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” on his radio. As the experience continues, he uses “knowing what will come next” to his benefit.
Too many of us seldom do that: learn by our experiences. I mean - Albert Einstein once said, “To do the same thing over and over again expecting different results is the meaning of insanity.” If true, some of us and one of the great men of God are, and was a little bit crazy. Some of us battle addictions and/or repeated bad decisions. Even the patriarch of the entire Jewish race, a man chosen and blessed by God, wasn’t exempt from this tendency of human nature!
Chapter 12 of Genesis tells how there was a grievous famine in the land where Abram and his wife, Sarai were. Abram took them down into Egypt in search of food. In verses 11 – 13, we read, “And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter Egypt, that he said to his wife, ‘Behold now, I know that you are a fair woman to look upon. Therefore, it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see you, that they shall say, “This is his wife; and they will kill me, but save you alive. Say, I pray you, that you are my sister; that it may be well with me for your sake and my soul shall live because of you.”
Indeed, the Egyptians, including officials of Pharaoh’s court, took note of Sarai’s beauty. They reported her to Pharaoh and recommended he take her into the palace, which he did, adding her to his harem. He, then treated Abram well because of her, giving him much livestock and servants, making Abram a wealthy man. However, God sent plagues upon Pharaoh and his palace because he’d taken a married woman into his harem.
Without telling us how Pharaoh knew the cause of the plagues, the passage tells us that he called Abram to him, upbraiding him by asking why he hadn’t truthfully named Sarai as his wife. He, then, promptly booted both Abram and Sarai out of his country!
Almost unbelievably, Abram, now named Abraham, in chapter 20 of Genesis, is reported doing the exact same thing when they entered the land of King Abimelech with the same result, except, rather than plagues, the Lord closed the wombs of the king’s court. The effect of his deception was the same for Abraham, without being gifted by King Abimelech, just kicked out of his land!
You’ve probably heard it said that experience is the best teacher. One of an extremely few TV pastors I watch is “Your Move With Andy Stanley,” broadcast in Macomb on the Up channel Sundays at 7:00 AM. He, rightly, points out that it is that simple experience that teaches us nothing! It is evaluated experience that teaches us. This is true in small matters, as well as, large ones.
For me, I applied it to a problem I was having related to my stroke induced paralysis on my left side. Wheelchair bound, I cannot propel my chair with two hands. My MDH occupational therapist taught me to hold my left foot with my right and use them to guide my chair as I propel it with only my right hand. As you would imagine, they don’t work like a ship’s rudder when I’m backing.
Each morning, I go into my bathroom to brush my teeth, shave, and wash my face. The first thing I do, once in the room, is go to a cabinet to retrieve my razors and shaving lotion. Upon backing away, I was, continually, backing into a closet door, leaving a mark each time. I thought about it and decided if I approached the cabinet at a more severe angle, when backing, I’d move into the open center of the room. It worked like a charm and has ever since!
The point of this article is not that all repeated behaviors or routines are bad. In fact, some are quite good, and, even, Biblical! For instance, a daily devotional, in which we read God’s Word and pray is necessary for our spiritual health. Also, physical, occupational, and speech therapists, alike, teach a technique and have you practice it over and over again.
My life is filled with routines! If you have been trying to give up a negative habit with no success, it may be because you’ve been trying to do it alone. Remember the words of Luke 1:37, where we read, “For with God nothing is impossible.” My suggestion is that you consult with your pastor about how to apply this to your situation. If you don’t have a pastor, any Macomb area one would be thrilled to hear from you, as would I!
My point of this article is to say to all of us, “Never again is it necessary to ask ourselves, ‘Am I crazy or just a slow learner?!”