What Have You Learned?

by Dave Gillogly

CRBC member, author, Bible teacher and Miss Millie’s husband

Four years ago I was at lunch in the cafeteria at the YMCA of the Rockies near Estes Park, Colorado. I was sitting with a group of college students who were at a training conference for an organization called A Christian Ministry in the National Parks (ACMNP). They were preparing to go to work that summer in national parks all over the country at jobs that ACMNP had found for them in lodges, restaurants, gift shops, etc. Their primary mission, however, and what they were being trained for, was to lead worship services, Bible studies and relationship ministry for park visitors, co-workers, park service employees or anyone else they came into contact with in the parks.

The conversation around the table was at first what you’d expect: where are you from, where are you going to school, what’s your major, which park will you be working in, etc.  When the introductory small talk slowed down, a young lady across the table from me looked me in the eyes and asked simply, “What have you learned?” There was no qualifier, no specificity, just “What have you learned?” In the silence that followed, with all eyes and ears on me, I mentally scrambled for something to say.

To this day, I have no recollection of what I blurted out. But the question haunted me. For two years, I kept coming back to it and trying to craft a concise summary of a lifetime of learning and experience. What have I learned? Finally it came together.

First, American historians Will and Ariel Durant said, “The greatest discovery in the history of mankind is that you can change your life simply by changing your mind (the way you think).”  It’s also been said that it’s not what happens to you that matters, it’s what you think about what happens to you. How we see the world, and how we categorize and label things that happen to us determines who we are, and who we’ll become.

If you go to the Cotton Bowl the second Saturday of October, you’ll see a stadium half full of people dressed in burnt orange, and the other half dressed in crimson and cream. Everyone in attendance will see the same game, yet half will go home elated, and the other half dejected.  It’s not the event, it’s what you think about the event.

Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Romans 12:2, “…be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Thoughts control us, but God allows us to control our thoughts if we choose to. We can think thoughts based on past experience or emotions, or we can think thoughts based on God’s truths. We can rest in God’s promises that we belong to Him and abide in his security and love and trust that “all things work together for good,” or we can live in a mental world of worry about our future or regret or anger or bitterness for our past. God allows us to create a world of our own with our thoughts,  but He recommends in Philippians 4:8 that our thoughts be about “whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” We are transformed by proper, i.e. Godly thinking.

Second, each of us was born (created) for one reason and one reason alone: fellowship with God. 

There is nothing God needs from us. He spoke the whole universe into existence with only a word. What could we possibly do that God needs? Certainly our walk with Him varies in its expression, but our primary reason for having been born was for fellowship with God. The entire Bible is a story of God creating and restoring fellowship with Him. And not fellowship with mankind; rather individual, personal, one-on-one friendship. How much of our time is spent working for God or studying about God but rarely talking to Him? Or how much of our lives don’t include acknowledging His existence at all? How long do we go every day with no thoughts of God at all?

Or how often do we spend time sitting quietly and fellowshipping with Him, or silently talking to Him while we go about our daily tasks including Him in all we do and think? That is why we were born.

Third, and finally “…the greatest of these is love.”

Love is above everything. Love for God, love for our families, love for friends, love for strangers, love for enemies, love for the works of God’s hands, both experiences and His creation, love for everything and everybody. Whatever we do or think, do it or think it in love.

So there you have it:  we can change our lives by changing the way we think; we were created for fellowship with God; and, love is above everything. I wish I’d said that four years ago. But I’m grateful for the prompting, the challenge, the ‘haunting’ and God’s leadership in arriving at an answer.

So...how about a challenge, if you’re up for it?  “What have you learned?”

The author used to be “Dave Gillogly.” Now if he’s downtown or at a meeting somewhere, he’s “Oh, you’re Erin’s dad.” Around Council Road, he is “Miss Millie’s husband.” A member of Council Road for 42 years, he has taught Bible Study classes, directed departments, served as a deacon, and served on a number of committees. Currently, some young guys are willing to hang out with him (they call it mentoring—he needs it), he writes a little, and with Miss Millie, spends three months a year communing  with God’s creatures (especially trout) in Montana next to Yellowstone Park.            

Dave Gillogly