I’m reading a book about how children succeed written by Paul Tough. The premise is that intelligence isn’t the only indicator of how people do in life.
When my son was 15, he kept on trying to pull the trick that he didn’t need to go to school (that day, that week, at all) because school is boring, and he’s smart. “I would go if it was interesting,” he said. So, really, according to him, it’s the teachers’ fault and the school’s fault – it was never his fault.
Tough’s traces the logic of my son’s desired outcome – dropping out of high school but succeeding in life. Is that possible? If you don’t graduate from high school you can take the GED, which is the knowledge equivalent. So theoretically you should be just as intelligent as someone who went to high school. Studies show that’s true. Kids don’t drop out of school because they aren’t smart. There are a thousand other reasons. So they should be able to get the equivalent of the degree. And they can. And they do. And if it were true that they succeeded in the same amounts, then why are we wasting all this time with high school at all? Let’s dispense with those hours, and just test them and get them out and working or in college or whatever is next for them.
But there is something to high school after all. Those with GEDs don’t do nearly as well in life. They’re just as smart, but they fail in life far more often.
For whatever reason, they can’t progress through classes. They can’t show up on time. They can’t have a long-term goal that is blocked by short-term problems, whatever those may be. They can’t display enough self-control to make it through each class, each week, each year. That may sound condescending, but I don’t mean it to be at all. The reasons these kids can’t may be big huge reasons like complete chaos at home or learning disorders. These are totally legitimate and understandable. I’m not saying they just need to “do better.” I’m saying that we need to help them get to and make it through high school, not just past the tests. Tough and others call this “non-cognitive skills.” It’s not just how smart you are that makes you successful. It’s so many other things in life that matter.
People could pass the test on Jesus. A ton of people in our city know who Jesus is and could get their “GED” in theology.
But if you can’t show up to church then I wonder about you. I wonder if you have the non-cognitive ability to make it through a life of faith. Church isn’t always exciting. It doesn’t always seem to matter every week. There are huge problems with the learning model, teachers, co-attenders, curriculum and activities. People get hurt. Goals get blocked. We get bored. So we opt out, but figure we’re okay. If I don’t like it, I shouldn’t attend because it would be fake and really a waste of my time.
I don’t want church to suck any more either. I don’t want it to be irrelevant or inconsistent. But it sure will always be inconvenient and costly. I will work to try to make it a place where we can tell our stories of rescue and make connection with Jesus in joy. But I can’t promise every week that it will feel that way.
I’m asking you to consider that it’s worth showing up anyway and being a part of the solution and not bailing. Not that you would lower your expectations. Raise them. Hope. Long for more. Taste and see. Open your eyes and heart to what God is doing, even in the small things. Don’t put it all on me to make that happen for you.
But don’t think that you can just be fine if you “know” it all. That’s not knowing. That’s not experiencing, loving, worshiping or repenting. That’s not walking with Jesus and his bride. Let’s succeed by giving up and giving over to Christ.