Two Schools

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Matthew 13:13 warns:

Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.

Many of Jesus’ teachings were meant not to be understood. His parables were famous for disguising more than they revealed. I believe that hidden meanings are a pattern that is required of all Gospel teachings.

Life is full of hard truths. You can’t be a mature person unless you have learned a lot of pain and misery. The paradox is that God wants us to be mature, but he will only bestow on us love and joy. The resolution of this paradox is the doctrine of the adversary, which has been around since the Garden of Eden. God allows an adversary to introduce us to the pain and misery that God himself will not create.

The Gospel intends to teach people how to turn sorrow into joy, and it does that by teaching about the joy but not about the sorrow. The teachings only make sense to people who are already familiar with sorrow. An innocent person (as Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden) is incapable of comprehending either hard truths or Gospel doctrine. For that reason, someone can hear the same Gospel messages their entire life, and then suddenly understand a new meaning in them as soon as they have been prepared by negative experiences.

Parables like those in the Bible presuppose the presence of opposition but don’t educate us in it. The messages of the parables are hidden to the innocent. The way to unlock their meanings is to interpret them through the lens of personal injury and injustice.

Every inspiring lesson should follow that pattern. It should teach about God’s love and joy. The message will only be appreciated by those who need it, and it will be enigmatic to the rest. Teachers should not take it upon themselves to inflict fear or to exercise negative influences on their students, because that would be doing the work of the Devil, even if their intention is to help them appreciate mysteries of the Gospel. Instead, teachers ought to be patient for everyone to be exposed to their own hard lessons naturally when the time is right. (Sunday School teachers eschew this advice more often than you might think; the offending lesson is frequently a question that starts out, “Do you really believe that…”).

The way to progress through life is to attend both of earth’s Two Schools. First, learn about pain and misery, through the power of the adversary. (Hopefully this happens by accident and not by seeking out evil influences). Second, learn to appreciate the Gospel teachings that can dispel the pain and misery. Then repeat.

Superheroes

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I liked Jason Statham’s hyper-competent character in The Transporter. A character like that would have to exercise more than the average amount of discipline. Life would consist of months of routine preparation punctuated by high-speed chases. During those boring months, it would be necessary to avoid attracting any attention. In particular, a successful transporter would have to obey traffic laws fastidiously, even though he is driving a car capable of torpedoing the speed limit. Any unnecessary risk would jeopardize his entire career.

So the best way to drive like a transporter is to observe the speed limit. You can tell yourself that you’re driving like an action hero would–an action hero who is lying low. You’re showing that you’ve got the extra discipline it takes to perform at that level.

My wife and I used to be in the habit of driving exactly the speed limit, without exceeding it by even a fraction. We used to say that we were being superheros. The irony was fun for us.

I kept it up awhile because it turns out that I like the feeling of obeying the speed limit. There is real peace in knowing that you don’t have to be on the lookout for a cop.