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I praise you, Lord, because of the awesome, unique way that you created me. You did wonderfully well, and my whole being knows and declares this truth. — Psalm 139:14
From the time I was a kid, I have heard people say, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” The saying was so often repeated, I never questioned its truth or its message: I need to learn while I am young, because when I grew old, I won’t be able to learn or remember anything.
Now that I’m much older, I’ve found value in questioning some sayings I assumed were true. For example, a frog will swim around in a pot full of water as it’s brought to a boil, which illustrates human nature’s lack of resistance to threats if they occur slowly. But actually, frogs leap from the water as soon as it becomes too hot. Or if they can’t get out, they’ll die trying. Evidently, humans aren’t as smart as frogs.
Are old dogs lazy and unwilling to learn? We might think so when we watch old Shep sitting in the shade with his tongue hanging out, with no apparent care in the world. But for a treat, he’ll be delighted to learn something new. As we grow older, we’re fully capable of learning new things. Sometimes we forget because we’ve lost our reasons to remember. Or maybe we’ve missed seeing the treats we get from learning.
When facing Goliath, David was called a “dog.” But the giant was wrong. People aren’t dogs, and they aren’t frogs. No matter their age, they are capable of learning new tricks, provided they believe in the reward for their effort. Illustrations often show a child facing a giant, but that’s not accurate. David had to be above a man’s average height. Saul was head-and-shoulders taller than most men, and he thought his armor would be suitable for David.
Goliath saw a man approach, without armor, holding no sword or spear. David obviously wasn’t a seasoned warrior, but he was far from being a child. For years in the fields tending sheep, he learned the skillful use of a sling. But that wasn’t all. He learned how God could guide his aim when he killed the lion and the bear. And he kept learning for all forty years as king of Israel.
No matter our age, we’ll not learn much from repeated routines and pleasures. But made in God’s image, we always have the ability to develop new skills if we keep believing in the reward for that effort. If we do that, we might amaze an audience that has never been willing to make that big an investment.