I am not going to lie, I lied. It was last year at the Summer Institute which has already rolled around again. We were studying The Odyssey and David Kern turned to me and asked, “Have you read it before?” I didn’t intend to lie. I was almost afraid to even look the question in the eye. Of course, I had read it before, hadn’t I? Of course I had. I knew all the stories. As the week proceeded and I continued to read I began to feel like maybe I hadn’t really ever read it before and on the drive home as I listened to Charles Griffin reading, I knew. I had lied. I had read about The Odyssey, and listened to lectures explaining The Odyssey, I had been around The Odyssey, and I had assigned The Odyssey, but I had never really read it myself.
Perhaps you think that my not reading The Odyssey proves I don’t have a classical education but it was not the lack of reading that gave me away it wasn’t even the lie, it was the inability to be humble which illuminated the defect in my education. Humility is the first fruit of true education.
Jesus tells us we must become like little children to enter the kingdom of Heaven. We must know that we do not know. This is much harder than it sounds. I have spoken to my own children often about the power in the words, “I don’t know.” I have tried to practice this myself, but sometimes we deceive ourselves and when we do we have hampered our education and our soul.
I have no trouble at all admitting I do not know the capital of Bosnia-Hercegovina; in fact, I had to ask my son to spell it for me. He gets a big kick out of knowing the spelling of obscure words. But if I am honest I know that is a bit of sleight of hand called false humility. It allows me to bluff humility. It is much harder to say, “I do not know this basic thing that Everyman should know.” Children have to do that every day.
But back to the soul: Charlotte Mason says that I was born a person-a soul. This is vital to everything else. As long as I think I know, I am a soul in danger. This year I have been a soul confronted with the things I thought I knew. Turns out I was so sure I knew so many things that there wasn’t any room for TRUTH. Finding out that I was wrong has been humiliating.
So humiliating that I am now able to say to David Kern, “I had never read The Odyssey before The Summer Institute. I am sorry I was unable to face up to that honestly.”
So humiliating that I have had to turn to those I am teaching and say, “I do not know,” and “I was wrong,” and “I have caused terrible harm, “and “I am sorry.” I have wept tears of anger and frustration at my own unnecessary ignorance.
I need help. I am so thankful that God promised to send a Helper. At first my cries were like Piglet’s squeaking in such a way as not to disturb anyone but now I find myself like Christian in the Slough of Despond crying out loud for Help. Help arrived.
I may not be a child but my slate is clean, my heart is open. I am ready to learn.