As February marks the end of my third year in the Dominican Republic, I can say without hesitation that I have learned more in these three years than any other three, five or even ten year period in my adolescent or adult life; and yet somehow I feel more clueless and incompetent than I ever have! Psychology generally defines the four stages of learning (also known as the four stages as competence) as the following:
- Unconscious Incompetence – “I do not know what I do not know”
- Conscious Incompetence – “I am aware that do not know how to perform the task well, which allows me to recognize the value of the new skill”
- Conscious Competence – “I can perform the task well, but it requires much thought and concentration”
- Unconscious Competence – “I know how to do it, and can perform it effortlessly”
From learning the Spanish language and culture to teaching and mentoring, most days I feel like a pendulum swaying back and forth from conscious incompetence to conscious competence in nearly every area of my life (and after recently having my second hip replacement, even walking has become more of a conscious competence, requiring much thought and concentration!).
The more I learn, the more conscious my incompetence becomes. However, rather than hinder my ability to teach or coach, it has allowed me to relate and connect with the children here in a profound way. Whether in the classroom, with soccer, or with Bible learning, my own incompetence has given me more than just patience and compassion, it has given me unreserved empathy for each one of these precious children of God as I help them move from one stage of learning to the next. When I see the passion these children have to learn to read, or learn to kick a soccer ball or to learn more about Jesus, it gives me a sense of joy that cannot be expressed in words.
When I think about the responsibility and the privilege that the creator of the entire universe has given me to pour into these children two versus come to mind, both spoken from the mouth of Jesus himself. In verse 18:6 in Matthew, Jesus calls a little child to him and says, “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” The other verse found in Luke 12:48b states, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
These are not verses for me to take lightly. Throughout the entire gospel Jesus shows his unending love for children, and in this verse in Matthew, goes as far as to tell us that it would be better for us to die than to make His children stumble. Every day I do my absolute best to show Jesus to these kids through my actions, but I can still say without a doubt that there have been days where my patience has worn thin, and I have caused kids to stumble.
It is an honor and a privilege to know that God has entrusted in me these little ones which are so precious to Him, but I am also overwhelmingly humbled knowing that I would fail miserably at the task He has given me if not for His abounding grace and mercy.
Written by Kirk Burnett
Director of Discipleship
2nd Mile Missions