This month, millions and millions of children, teens, and young adults are back in the swing of another school year. They have a fresh supply of #2 pencils, a new backpack, and likely some new back to school shoes and clothes. It’s always a time of year full of energy, of new beginnings and new faces mixed with old routines and old friends. As students sit in the classroom, whether in preschool or graduate school or somewhere in between, all students are on the same quest: the quest for knowledge.
We all feel that tug, don’t we? The yearning to fill our brains with new volumes of information, acquire new skills, and master new things. It is something that is undeniably a unique part of the human spirit. It is something that goes beyond parents making their kids go to school and do homework. If left alone with a house full of stuff an no rules on what they can and can’t do, kids will naturally explore everything, to learn what things do and how they work. Even the best chef looks for new recipes and tries new ingredients. Even the most skilled craftsman is constantly looking for new techniques to add to his mental toolbox. Over our lifetimes we pour countless hours searching for knowledge in terms of our careers and our hobbies, but no matter how much we learn our trade or our craft, we still go to sleep at night with a restless heart. And we wake up the next morning still searching for… something. Still restless. Still driven by some internal desire to go seek, to go search, to go explore, to go learn.
With all the schools, books, assignments, labs, homework, and the vast resources of the internet, we are living in a world bursting with knowledge. Information on every topic is easily accessible and readily taught. While all this knowledge is out there, the question is: Are we taught — and are we teaching — how to tell the difference between right and wrong, truth and lie? Do we have the wisdom to discern between good knowledge and bad knowledge? After all, all truth is knowledge, but not all knowledge is truth.
So often we settle on what is comfortable, what feels right, what we’ve been taught is truth by people we love and respect. So often what we settle on is what simply feels like truth. Like teenagers who are convinced they know everything, we justify our acceptance of this or rejection of that based on what seems like perfectly rational thinking. We dig in our heels and debate with other people who have opposing positions, believing they are certainly not as enlightened as we are. And then, one day, someone comes along and hits us with the truth presented in a way we hadn’t considered before. Or maybe presented so bluntly that it cuts to the bone. At first we scoff them and their ignorance. But there’s something about what they said that we can’t shake. Something that keeps gnawing at us. Something that never quite goes away. We resist it, we try to ignore it, but that truth keeps sitting there, immovable. Sometimes we get angry that it’s there, angry that it won’t go away, angry that it challenged our perfect world and our perfect way of thinking. Maybe we get angry at the person that told us the truth. But no matter what we do, the truth is still there, telling us that we’re wrong.
It’s not always easy accepting truth. It’s not always easy admitting you’re wrong. Sometimes, it’s downright painful. Some lies we have come to believe because generations of our families have believed them, lived their lives based on them, and passed the lies on. “It’s tradition!” Some lies are so part of our identity that admitting we’ve been living a lie means letting go of a large part of who we think we are. It means admitting that we are wrong, that we are broken, and maybe that our parents and generations before them were wrong and broken too. But as Jesus tells us, the truth will set us free. The lies we believe here and there, the lies that we may have believed our whole lives, the lies that may have been part of our family’s history for generations, they are all chains of slavery and bondage to sin. The truth will set us free because God is truth, absolute truth, and the lies we believe are not of God and can never be of God.
The desire in our hearts to search for knowledge is ultimately a desire to search for truth. It is a desire in our hearts to put on our backpack, sharpen our pencils, and go search for God. God is truth. The more we love God the more we search for the truth. The more we’re willing to accept the truth when we find it, even if it’s uncomfortable or painful, the more we love God. As St. Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” Without a doubt, God loves us all. And without a doubt He made us to love Him. It is the desire of our souls to be united with truth. It is the desire of our hearts to search for God.