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My wife and I have become trailer travelers. The statement suggests more proficiency than is appropriate. “We are learning to be trailer travelers” is more accurate. There are resources available to instruct us. I have visited a couple of RV centers. I’ve watched some YouTube tutorials and tugged the ear of those who are more travelled than me. Frankly, I’m surprised at how much there is to learn! Hitches, sway bars, tongue jacks, GVWR, curb weight, black or grey tanks (don’t mix them up), and I haven’t even mentioned backing up! Despite the intake of all the information I could absorb, there is only one way to learn. Experience.

Experience is the supreme teacher. Nothing can replace the doing of a thing to learn it well. That’s true of piano technique, cooking a turkey, navigating a strange city, juggling or anything else you can think of. We acknowledge that practice makes perfect. What we don’t say enough is that experience is a severe teacher. It doesn’t spare us pain or promise ready success. It is schooling by hard knocks. So far, in becoming a trailer traveler, I have fused a hitch against a rental truck, crushed a couple of chucks, performed a scary 11-point blind turn in a cramped campground, bashed a few knuckles on stabilizers and most of all – learned that I needed a bigger vehicle! My learning curve has been more jagged than smooth. But it is turning me into a trailer traveler.

The principle of education by experience applies to our faith as well. No one grows fully in Christ by Bible study alone. While essential, it is still only a starting point. We must learn the biblical truths and then flesh out the truths we read. Knowing the doctrine is a necessary first step, but growth occurs when those doctrines are exercised in our living, working, loving and serving.  We mature through our unanswered prayers, extended deserts of the soul, the struggles of witnessing, the problem of pain, the fog of our future or the challenge of community. Each of these (and many more) can be hard to understand and harder to endure. In the midst of them, we may feel like we are getting nowhere and wonder why God is doing this to us. But God will teach and train His children. He has begun a good work and He will complete it. God will do His part. What is ours?

The catechism of experience is not automatic. Going through something doesn’t ensure that we learn from it. I will always be a novice trailer traveler (or a stunted believer) apart from three key words essential to our experience. Remember. Reflect. Resolve. I am to remember the experiences God has given me. Our lives fall in patterns where God repeats some lessons. Perhaps we failed to absorb the truth well the first time, or God wants to press it deeper – He will take us over familiar territory. I benefit in the repetition by remembering His faithfulness or my own faultiness. I will be stuck in the same place unless I also reflect on my experience. What have I learned about God in this? Where are my vulnerabilities? What was happening in me and around me to bring me to this place? Once we remember and reflect, we resolve for new ways of doing and being. We can change our ways and set a new course. We can build on the progress that God has granted.

Experience has no power of its own. It is a means of God to shape us, and He is our Guide throughout. We are dependent upon His grace, and it can be found in every experience. We can learn, change, grow and mature. Lest you doubt it, you should watch me back the trailer up.

Scott Tolhurst

Scott Tolhurst

Scott and his wife have spent almost 50 years following God together through life, marriage and ministry. They’ve hop scotched across Canada and landed at the water’s edge on Vancouver Island. They’ve harvested the riches of family (5 grandkids!) and the delights of God’s people. Life has not always been clear but the fog has been pierced with these truths. The heart matters. Kingdom work is God’s. Nothing can replace faith. It never ceases to amaze Scott that, if his life is a gift, how great the Giver must be!

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