We all want to live up to our potential, right? Without understanding the processes we undertake, we limit our potential. The rules are important but to truly apply the rules we need to understand the workings of that process. It is amazing to me how many areas of my life in which this principle is apparent. From my cooking to schooling to my Christian walk, all these areas shout to me the importance of true understanding.
Using is not always understanding. My mom has made sourdough pancakes since I can remember. And I have made them since I’ve been on my own. But that is all I ever did with my sourdough starter. And even there, all I knew was that I took the starter out of the fridge the night before, put milk and flour in it, and let it sit overnight. Then the next morning I was to take a portion of the starter out to put back in the fridge and continue on making the pancakes. I didn’t know that sourdough is actually alive and putting it in the fridge puts it into a dormant state. So taking it out of the fridge just wakes it up so I can use it. It is adding the flour and milk (or water) that feeds those little critters and makes the starter grow.
I wanted to try sourdough bread but was always afraid I would ruin my starter somehow. All because I did not understand how it worked. So I never ventured out past pancakes . . . until recently. I found a book that had a recipe for bread that started out the same as the pancakes. This led me to investigate sourdough further. Wow! Was I missing a lot. What is sourdough? How does it work? How do you know it is weak or strong? You get the picture. What does this understanding do for me? It makes it so I can experiment with replacing the leavening in my other recipes with sourdough. It makes it so I can experiment with different rates of feeding and different amounts of flour and water to see what keeps my starter the healthiest. It makes it so I can leave my starter on the counter and use it day to day for muffins, biscuits, bread or even pizza dough.
Does understanding the process negate the need for the recipes? Definitely not! But without the understanding of how sourdough worked, I was locked into a box fearing to venture out lest I ruin my starter which I received from my mother, who has had hers for over 40 years. Thus my potential of using this nutrient-rich food was greatly diminished without truly understanding the process.
But not only does the importance of understanding present itself in my kitchen. It shows up in my homeschooling as well. The first area it manifested itself was in math class. Using math in real life is more easily accomplished when you truly understand how the formulas work. You can go through your math classes clicking through the math facts and working all the right steps of the formulas. You can even get the right answers. But a student can do all those things and still be unable to explain the process. Understanding is crucial to being able to use math where it really matters – the real world. There is no way you are going to be able to take a real life situation and apply the correct formula to it if you do not understand what the formula is all about. So knowing your math facts and formulas is very important. But if you cannot identify which formula applies to which situation, the rote information is pretty useless in helping you find your solution. Thus both elements are important.
The attitude that all we need to know are the facts and formulas can permeate into our Christian life as well. We can have our checklists and formulas for being the perfect Christian that we are continually striving to meet. But is that what Christianity really is? Do we really live in the fullness God has for us if we are just walking a facts and figures path? Do we truly understand that God wants a relationship with us and that our righteousness is not won through any of our checklists being completed? Is it important that we follow the rules as a Christian? Yes, it is. James 2 clearly states that faith without works is dead. However, we follow the rules because of our love for God not because it earns us our salvation. And it isn’t even a following of the rules. As we live in relationship with Christ being led by the Holy Spirit, we automatically do the deeds that fulfill the Law because they are what please God.
So just knowing the rules or the formulas isn’t enough although they are important. Whether I am cooking, learning, or living my Christian life, only through true understanding of the process can I be free from a life of rigidity and become open to the possibility of venturing into heights and depths unknown.