Learning the Hard Way

By Kimberly Schluterman

When I was in Jr. High, Jesse, a kid a few grades ahead of me, was killed tragically in a car accident as he drove home, drunk, from a party on the mountain. At the time, we were all a little less scrupulous about what e-mails we sent because it was still a relatively new phenomenon and the rules and social norms that we expect today hadn’t yet been established. So naturally, several e-mails about Jesse went around, all saying basically the same thing. It’s so sad he died, let’s keep his family in our prayers, let’s all take the time to heal. All fine and dandy, but I felt like the obvious lesson here was being missed. So I forwarded one of those e-mails and wrote at the top something about how his death was so tragic, but we can learn from it. The moral of the story here is don’t drink and drive.
My message seemed innocuous enough to me, but one person who was close to Jesse replied with a hateful, angry note about how I shouldn’t be judging him in his death. I should only be showing love and compassion. I was stunned, because in my mind, I was showing love and compassion to my friends still alive by cautioning them of what could happen if they were stupid. I really hadn’t meant to offend anyone so I replied to this person with a note about how a smart woman will learn from her mistakes, but a smarter woman will learn from someone else’s mistakes. Somewhere in there, I remember writing these words: “Jesse’s death was a terrible tragedy for all those involved, but an easy lesson for those of us who weren’t.” This seemed to satisfy my offended friend because she wrote back, praising me for my wisdom and thanking me for keeping a cool head.
Of course, it wasn’t my own wisdom that I was sharing. My daddy taught me my whole life to learn not only from my own mistakes, but also from the mistakes of others. This lesson has proved valuable to me time and time again, as there is never a shortage of stupid behavior around me. Not that long ago, I remember looking around my world thinking every other person I knew must be going bankrupt. Bankruptcies everywhere! Here I was, recently married and applying the financial goals from Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover (read my review in a previous Single!), and I was surrounded by people filing for bankruptcy. Co-workers, chatty Walmart cashiers, and old friends had all spent their way into financial bleakness so that they were now left with no other choice but to go bankrupt. I would have been a fool not to recognize the importance of living below my means and saving for unforeseen expenses in the future.
I am sure this was no coincidence, but rather a divine circumstance. God directed the money makeover book into our hands at a pivotal time in our lives; and when we needed it most, He provided the extra incentive, some real-life examples, of why we should take the book to heart. God is good like that. He puts people who have learned the hard way into our lives so that we can learn from them. If we are wise enough to take heed, we can be spared from hardship.
But now, a person about whom I care very much is failing to learn from my mistakes. I spent my first couple semesters of college learning everything the hard way. I guess I didn’t realize how important sleep is to physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. Either nobody told me or I didn’t listen; the latter seems more likely.
As is so common, I liked a boy, and spending time with him seemed more important than sleep. The cumulative result is what I now call “my bad semester.” Just before Christmas break of my sophomore year, that boy told me he didn’t like me like that anymore and only wanted to be friends. Of course, officially we were only “friends” anyway, as I knew he wasn’t the kind of boy I could ever marry. But the emotions were still there and the rejection still stung. He told me this at about 4:00 in the morning—about four hours before my history final for which I’d been studying all night. Naturally, when I got to the final, I was not only devastatingly tired, but distracted by heartbreak as well. To this day, I have almost no memory of taking that test. That’s probably why I made a D on it. This class, in which I’d held a high A the whole rest of the semester, now became yet another B on my transcript.
The punctuation to that bad semester was Christmas break. I don’t remember packing or making the drive. When I got home, I went straight to bed. I got up occasionally to eat and use the bathroom, but for two full days and three full nights, all I did was sleep. I slept through company coming to visit, I slept through church, I slept through what could have been quality time with my family. I slept through everything because I was just so tired. I was tired in every way that a person can be tired. There’s no doubt in my mind that if that semester had been just a few weeks longer, I’d have ended up in the hospital.
I’ll never forget the events of the following weeks or the way my relationship with my daddy changed forever. Because of the unbelievable and tough love of my parents, I learned a lot of important lessons that I still use today. The most practical of them was simply that at least once, every single day, I have to go to bed. I’m a human in a human body and I need sleep. When I went back to school, I went to bed before midnight and slept for at least seven hours almost every single night. When I could, I slept for 8-9 hours. That next semester, I made all A’s. I also made the Dean’s List each of my last five semesters.
It was amazing how much healthier I was just from that small change. Of course, I made some social adjustments as well. There were more tough social lessons to be learned later, but for then, the important thing was to sleep. Our bodies, minds, hearts, and spirits need rest every single day. They need quiet time. And as a bonus tip, I’ll point out that your body does know the difference between night and day, so sleeping during the day is not as beneficial as sleeping at night; and sleeping at night with all the lights and TV on are not as beneficial as sleeping with black-out curtains and everything turned off. Remember, the point is to rest, to really, deeply, rejuvenate. Let your body use God’s amazing design to heal itself. Give your heart and mind time to process the assaults from the day and build defenses against the next ones. Read your Bible and let its words refresh your soul.
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” Psalm 42:1-2
This lesson about sleep, which I learned in such a hard way, was probably the very beginning of my personal Project Balance. I learned to balance my social life and personal wants with my academic goals and physical needs. Whether the next step in your Project Balance is to learn to rest or to get up and exercise, I challenge you to learn from my mistake and take care of God’s temple (I Corinthians 6:19-20). This person about whom I care so much, I love her and want only good and wonderful things for her. I know she’s capable of taking over the world, but instead all she wants is to help it in every single way. I just wish she’d learn from my mistake like I did from Jesse’s. Youth can get you through a lot of things, but it cannot sustain. Only God can sustain, and His design for your body was that it should rest.

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