Reflecting On Our Experience

“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.” – John Dewey

“Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.” — Peter and John before the religious leaders recorded in Acts 4

You have to appreciate Peter and John. They had just been hauled before the very group that had ordered their Teacher killed. They should have been shaking in their sandals. They should have been answering “No, sir” and “Yes, sir” to the group.

But they stood firm and first challenged the leaders (should we listen to you or God) and then told them that the leaders could not stop them from talking about their experiences.

John Dewey was an American philosopher who was instrumental in the public schools movement. He was exactly correct in his observation that just having experiences doesn’t help us that much. It is the process of reflecting upon our experiences where we find growth.

When you step back and look at the New Testament, isn’t most of it this very thing–reflecting upon the experiences of the people who met, lived with, and experienced Jesus. Including Paul’s experience with the risen Jesus.

I just heard the story of a woman who is probably in her early 30s and a worship leader. At 14 her parents divorced. She spiraled into alcohol, drugs, prostitution (five abortions). By age 19 she was suicidal and ready to give up. She “happened” to meet someone who took her to a recovery group. She’s been sober every day since. Then she found a church that would accept her. It nurtured her, gave her opportunities.

Most powerful were the questions she asked–of herself and others. That is the act of reflection. “What if…?” And “How can we…?”

I bet most of us are reflecting on our Christmases Past during this time of year. I hope they are better than Scrooge’s Christmas Past. But we all have some stories of dysfunction. But also stories of grace and growth.

I can’t believe that Christmas is almost here. Where did December go? Time to take a deep breath, relax, and experience the joy of the season.

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