Monday, October 6, 2014

No Experience Required?

A long time ago, in a land far away, finishing my graduate degree in journalism, I was looking for a job to start applying the journalistic truths and principles I’d been learning. I interviewed at one of the daily newspapers in Columbus, Ohio (yes, in those days many cities had more than one newspaper). Like most students closing out their college career, I was eager to get started professionally.

The assistant editor reviewed my resume and samples of my work, indicating I seemed to have some ability. Then he said, “But we really need someone with experience.” What? I had worked on the student newspaper at Ohio State, but knew he meant real experience in the day-to-day business of reporting and editing.

I said something like, “I know I need experience. But how do I get experience unless you give me a job?”

As it turned out, I was hired as editor of a small community newspaper. All I had to do was be the editor, news and sports reporter, photographer, editorial writer and columnist. Talk about experience! I worked there for more than six years, and although I made lots of mistakes, I wouldn’t have traded the experience I gained for anything.

In the work world, virtually every job of significance requires previous experience. You never see a job advertised this way: “CEO Wanted for Major Corporation. No experience required.” For positions of authority and major responsibility, experience is a must. 

It seems to me, however, two of the most important jobs anyone can ever have don’t require experience. In fact, the first time anyone assumes these jobs, prior experience is impossible. The jobs I’m talking about are: being married, and becoming a parent.

I’m not a huge fan of weddings, but I’ve been to enough of them – including my own – to know the bride and groom always arrive for the ceremony with the same mindset. They think they know it all, the rest of their life is going to be entitled “Happily Ever After,” and their marriage partner is going to make them blissfully and completely happy forevermore.

Yeah, right!

Soon, after a few months, a few weeks, or in some cases, a few hours, Mr. or Mrs. Right suddenly realizes, “What have I done?” as the daily, relentless reality of married life settles in. “Sure, I married for better or worse – but I didn’t realize it was going to be this worse!” Thus begins on-the-job training, along with the experience they’ll need for the long haul.

The same is true of parenting. Mom and dad excitedly anticipate arrival of baby No. 1, certain their little person will be the cutest, smartest, most delightful child in the history of children. Then baby is born and really is cute. (Note: Anything in miniature is cute – even baby piranhas!) But then come the dirty diapers, crying and screaming, spitting up, waking up at all hours of the night, trips to the doctor for various maladies. Once again, on-the-job training provides experience we wish we could have had beforehand.

So embarking on marriage for the first time (and hopefully, the last) or parenting are jobs for which experience isn’t required. Thankfully, however, we have help. In the Scriptures, God has provided ample teaching about marriage and raising children. If we heed what He’s said – after all, marriage and having kids were His idea – we’ll at least have a head start.

For instance, to husbands and wives God gives this serious admonition: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:25-33).

At wedding ceremonies we often hear the words from 1 Corinthians 13, including “Love is patient, love is kind…. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs…. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” These words should be recorded and replayed every morning by couples for at least their first year of marriage.

About raising children, the Bible advises, “Train up a child in the way he should go. Even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). And Ephesians 6:4 warns, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

It’s almost like God saying, “Being a husband or a wife, a mom or a dad, will be hard work. It will have its joys, but will be extremely demanding. Sometimes you’ll feel over your head, totally unqualified. And you’ll be right! That’s why I’ve given lots of instructions to guide you, practical wisdom for every problem and challenge you’ll face.”

When you’re short on experience, it’s always good to seek advice from someone wiser than yourself. I can’t think of a better resource for this than the Scriptures.

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