In teaching, one of the most disheartening phrases a pupil can say to you is “I don’t get it!” As a teacher, the aim is to pass on knowledge and skill in such a way that the pupil understands and can do, and the phrase “I don’t get it!” means that there is a lack of understanding and confidence. Conversely, a teacher’s job is done when the penny drops the pupil says, “I get it now!” and demonstrates this through their independent work. I can remember my son, aged four, understanding the concept of addition without actually having to literally count, when he grasped the idea that if two plus two equals four, then two thousand plus two thousand equals four thousand and two million plus two million equals four million. It was a lightbulb moment for him and one we cherished because we knew that he’d “got it”!
In the Bible, we see that only God is all-knowing (omniscient). Sometimes that is a reassuring thought, someitmes it daunts us, for we feel frustrated by our ignorance. We place a lot of value in our society on education and knowledge (today is A-level results’ day and many teenagers will be anxiously awaiting results to find out if they have secured the grades needed for the next stage in their lives), but Paul tells the Corinthians, “we never really know enough until we recognise that God knows it all.” (1 Cor 8:3, The Message) There’s nothing wrong with seeking knowledge and understanding, but we have to recognise also that there will always be things we don’t understand, especially when it comes to spiritual truths.
Understanding can often require dogged perseverance; there are many subjects which cannot be understood instinctively and quickly. Sometimes learning means doing what we’re told by a teacher even if we don’t understand why, until one day, the penny drops and we finally “get it”! Jesus said that eternal life involves knowing the Father and knowing Him. (John 17:3) That’s not an academic kind of knowledge, but a knowledge by faith. This kind of understanding produces warmth, not wariness, and hope, not helplessness. We may not “get it” in terms of having all the answers, but we can still “get it” and live a life of love, faith and hope, secure in God’s knowledge, even if ours is incomplete.