Bella and the Spiritual Practice of Teachability

Sometimes Bella looked back and smiled at her beginnings. Elementary teachers saying on her report card, “Bella disturbs the class with her talking.” Or “Bella doesn’t listen.” She used to dread taking the report card home to her father. Those big brown eyes of his would bore into her little soul as he pointed where he wanted to see improvement. It certainly didn’t seem Bella knew much about being teachable as a child.

But when she wasn’t shielding herself from being judged or when her creativity wasn’t being squashed, Bella listened deeply. Oh, and a person had to make sure it was interesting…to her!

She was a child who heard things in the wind and the forest or sitting by the water. She received a certain, unnamable wisdom when climbing along fences and touching soft pussy willows and looking out at vast fields. When someone walked alongside her, unrushed, and she could sense they were happy to be in her company, Bella’s mind and heart were like a soft open sponge that marveled at whatever was shared.

Bella had a lot of years under her belt to think about what it means to be teachable. It means a lot more than listening well or being interested. Through the years many things had stunted her ability to be teachable but the Spirit pressed on to open her up to this practice.

It takes humility, a willingness to be wrong or not have the whole story on something or someone. It takes facing how afraid we are of being led down the wrong garden path. Welcoming another person who sees things differently than you do without being threatened. Not taking the responsibility onto our own shoulders to correct, or think we know where that person needs to get to. Allowing knowledge to come from different places without thinking you have to agree with it all and blocking it before you have a chance to place it alongside the things you already think and believe. Curiosity, a lack of judgment, emotional maturity…the practice of teachability is rich and full of virtues. Practicing teachability is a real journey and addresses a lot of necessary inner work.

From the Book:

Learning something new doesn’t mean we are teachable. We can always use information to simply reinforce our own opinions and biases.

Jesus constantly looked for teachable people – people who would look beyond appearances and not make snap judgments. He warmed to those who asked honest questions. And he was grieved and dumbfounded by the educated who were hardhearted, unteachable and dense. He said to them, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39).

Jesus was passionate about those with ears to hear. He was attracted to those who willingly admitted how much they didn’t know. People who could lay aside their prejudices and entertain something new were often the recipients of Jesus’ transforming word. Jesus is still looking for teachable disciples. How teachable are we? Do we hide behind our knowledge and feel uncomfortable being the learner? Will we be the student again and again and again?

Reflection Questions from Book:

1. What new things have you learned about God and yourself in the last month?

2. What position shave you rethought and changed your mind about in the last few years?

3. How do you respond when you hear an opinion you don’t agree with?

Spiritual Exercise from Book:

Become aware of your compulsions to let others know what you think. Notice when you’re composing what you will say next rather than listening to the one who is speaking. When do you feel the urge to go on, rant, give your opinion in a pompous kind of way? Pause and ask the Holy Spirit to give you a teachable heart in this moment.

Photo by Andy Newton-Unsplash

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