The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher, Priest-in-charge Trinity Episcopal Church, Russellville

As children we tend to believe whatever we are taught. Santa Claus was real for us and not just a story. On Christmas Eve we may have peeked into the room with the tree to see if we could catch Santa coming down the chimney to leave presents for us. Our parents kept the story alive for us until we finally realized that Santa was really mommy and daddy. This may have been disappointing, or maybe our relearning made us feel a little more grownup.


Relearning is not only a task for children but for adults as well. People who read the Bible have the task of realizing that the scriptures contain not only history but stories and myths as well. The tendency for some is to take the stories literally just as they learned them in Sunday school. Later they realize that Jonah didn't literally get swallowed by a big fish and live in the fish's belly for three days before being thrown up on the shores of Nineveh. It is a story to tell us that God is merciful, gives us second chances, even to the wicked people of Nineveh. Jonah wanted them destroyed, but God thrust Jonah on their shores to warn them to repent. The people believed Jonah, and God did not destroy the Ninevites. There's much more to the story than that simple summary, but this is an example of understanding a Bible story as a means to teach a principle of God's mercy rather than to tell an actual historical event. Relearning can be difficult for adults as well as children.

Relearning is with us on a daily basis with efforts to become friendly with our computers and telephones, with keyless starters on our cars, with multiple ideas of what is healthy food to eat, etc. If we resist change we resist relearning and remain in our ignorance. When many people years ago were illiterate, an "X" satisfied as a signature. According to Alvin Toffler, "the illiterate of the twenty-first century will be…those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."

Relearning is a continuing process as we progress on the spiritual journey. The irony of the task is that the more we learn, the less we know, and the happier we become. The spiritual journey leads us constantly into the realm of awe and wonder. God is a supreme Mystery who somehow can be felt in the secrets of our hearts as loving, merciful, and the source of our being. What a joy relearning can be.