Ready or Not

     “Life always gives us exactly the teacher we need at every moment. This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light, every traffic jam, every obnoxious superior (or employee), every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression, every addiction, every piece of junk, every breath. Every moment is the guru.”

       Perhaps you’ve heard the saying “When the student is ready the teacher will come.” According to author Charlotte Joko Beck, the teacher is always present – ready or not. Giving her the benefit of the doubt may be difficult – come on, mosquitoes, traffic jams, people that get on our nerves …?  But to reject her wisdom means that we would spend much of our time and energy resisting life instead of learning its many lessons.

     Presuming you agree that rejecting our teachers is not a good way to use the little time we have on this earth, the question becomes what are we to learn from them, and why are we so often reluctant to learn it? Could the lesson be that we don’t really have much control over what happens? But we already know that. Could it be that what doesn’t kill us will make us stronger? But we know that, too. Perhaps what we are to learn is that every aspect of life, especially the most trying, can by our openness to them be the entrée to a spiritual depth we didn’t know we had, one that can sustain us in the midst of trials.  Not a fun lesson, but one that can serve us well.

     And why are we, generally speaking, reluctant learners? The word ‘stubborn’ comes to mind! I know I tend to dig in my heels when life is other than what I prefer. Rather than being willing to accept and deal with what is difficult and distasteful, I resist and resent before it occurs to me that I may benefit from what is happening. Better a reluctant learner than a doofus!

     Life is full of annoying, hurtful, and harmful events and people. It seems counterintuitive, if not masochistic, to view this reality as something positive, something that could benefit us, something we would do well to embrace rather than reject. But if everything and everyone can be our teacher, and if we value learning/growing, then living with a mind and heart open to all that life brings our way may not be as masochistic as it seems.

3 thoughts on “Ready or Not

  1. The first quote by Beck above sounds a lot like the teaching that God is in charge, or “everything happens for a reason.”
    In her book, Everything Happens or a Reason and other Lies I Have Loved, Kate Bowler wrote about how she was “done with lessons.” She was done with Beck’s way of thinking.
    It seems to me that there is always something to learn from each experience we have during our time here on Earth– but this is different from the belief that each experience is exactly what we need in each moment. It seems like the latter belief will necessarily involve some form of teleology. I do agree that the latter belief would seem to be conducive to less resistance or less reluctance to learn from whatever comes our way.
    I am oftentimes reminded of this quote by William James: Human religious needs are diverse, “no two of us have identical difficulties, nor should we be expected to work out identical solutions.”


      1. You’re welcome, Tom.
        Some of us embrace a worldview that is perhaps more conducive to faith– while for others of us having a worldview that makes more sense (or at least does not strain credulity) is a higher priority (thus the emergence of process theology).


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