A low floor and a high ceiling

There are two characteristics that I really admire in people. Firstly, some people just have this amazing capacity to endure in tough circumstances. They can be taken anywhere or put through anything and they don’t crack. They take it in their stride, get on with life and make it happen. I really admire this kind of never-say-die perseverance through stress and suffering. I call it ‘having a low floor’ in their capacity. Things can get really low, and yet they can still handle it and maintain a good attitude. Secondly, you get people who have what I call ‘a high ceiling’. These are the people with a flair for life. They are dissatisfied with living on the level of day-to-day survival – they want to prosper. These people bring excess and creativity into a situation, always striving for the best possible experience – to master the art of living well. If you think about it, which one is more like you?

Often a weakness or blind spot comes with these strengths. Those who suffer well also tend to suffer needlessly, or they have no desire to put effort into ‘unnecessary extras’. To them, life should be lived humbly – those practicing the ‘art of living’ are met with the suspicion of superficiality or arrogance. These low-floor people also have a low ceiling – a war-time mentality. Conversely, the high floor in many high-ceiling types would render them quite useless in a war. Their happiness and functioning are often very fragile, being based on external things. To them, life must be lived for the pleasure of it – and those who do not seek this passionately are met with the suspicion of cultural bankruptcy. Interestingly, I have met many people with either a low floor or a high ceiling, but not too many with both. Christians, too, seem to relate more to either the high ceilings of Abraham and Solomon or the low floors of Job and John the Baptist! My conviction, however, is that God aims to stretch our personal capacity in both directions. In Jesus, the King and the Suffering Servant, our inheritance is both a high ceiling and a low floor. We can live out both His glory and his humility.

ceilingfloor2Let me illustrate this with a personal story…

Continue reading

A thought about discipleship: push and pull

My wife studies educational theory. One interesting fact I have been able to grasp from our conversations about it is that there are two basic views on how to educate people. These two views both involve the link between learning and development. The first view is that a person’s learning pulls their development along, while the other view claims that a persons development pushes their learning along. These two theories have complicated names and explanations so I just call them ‘pull’ and ‘push’ learning. Pull education is about teaching people something to help them grow, whereas push education is about waiting for people to grow before teaching them.

push and pull

Push and pull learning are quite fascinating when you think about the practical implications. Take the school system for example. Should the curriculum be designed to stretch students beyond their capacity so that they can learn faster than if they were not challenged? Or should it be tailored to their natural mental development? There is a lot of debate about how much we can shape the internal growth of children through external influences, and how much we can’t. I can relate to this push and pull dynamic in my personal development. There have been times when new desires, drives and capacities have developed spontaneously in me which have ‘pushed’ me into new explorations and learning that I wouldn’t have had a desire for before. But there have also been other experiences and exposures due to my environment which have inspired (pulled?) me towards growing in an area that I would have never have desired if left to myself.

All this makes me wonder: how does this apply to Christian growth and discipleship? Continue reading