Sometimes You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

card-catalog-drawers-jeremy-woodhouseIf I’d Only Known… #2

Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, – Proverbs 1:5

I’m going to date myself a little bit here. How many people even know what this is a picture of? Here’s a hint: You used to find them in a public building that housed shelves and shelves of books. Answer: A card catalog. They held all the information you needed to find any book in the library on any given topic by any given author. There were variations in how they were structured, but in the end they were all the same in one respect. The card catalog was a simple system that helped millions of kids write term papers. I should know. I was one of them.

I remember going into the library with an idea in my head on what I wanted to write about and no idea where to get the information I needed. A librarian would come over and take me to that huge cabinet of drawers filled with thousands of cards and before too long I had a list of books, authors, and shelf locations that would take me the second stage of the library visit – the hunt for books.

Often when I was looking for my resources I would only have a general idea of what I was writing about, and usually that idea gave me more than enough of the information I thought I needed on the topic, but when I would start digging through the catalog, something happened. I found out that there were things I didn’t know that I didn’t know! The longer I spent in the topical cards, the more books I found that would help me write a paper far more informative than anything I would have been able to do on my own. The card catalog and the librarian acted as facilitators to get me to the understanding that I was looking for.

About 10 years ago, I started to realize that I had some things I needed to learn regarding my walk with Christ. I went to some people that should have been able to help me, but they had their own idea of what I was looking for and decided to try and take me down a similar, but different road. I wasn’t precisely sure what I was looking for, but it didn’t take me long to realize that I was “looking in the wrong card catalog.”

Over the next couple of years, I bounced through several books, listened to a lot of teaching on the radio, and began to develop a dependence on the Bible for finding things out. I was finding a ton of information, more than I knew what to do with, and before long I came to the conclusion that I knew a lot of stuff, but what I really needed to understand was that there were things I didn’t know that I needed to know.

Through a series of events, I met a man that I would soon call my pastor, then my mentor or “rabbi”, and now my friend. Through his kind, but probing questions, he brought me to the conclusion that while I did know a lot, what I didn’t know was what to do with what I knew. It was that point of application that would eventually bring some real life change out in me.

I didn’t know it then, but that was the beginning of Relentless Living for me. By being willing to realize that I didn’t know what I didn’t know, I was able to learn so much more. It taught me to listen to people, enter their pain, and encourage them through hard times. It has allowed me to make better friends, and see growth in my personal life.

If you want to avoid having a lot of “If I only…” moments, start living a Relentless Life! Look for people who can help you with the things you are trying to learn. Find that person that seems to be so proficient in your area of interest and start a relationship with them. You will find that when a person is passionate about something, they are happy to teach it – especially to someone they see shares that passion!

The only way I will ever be able to repay my “rabbi” for all the help he has given me is to take his passion for growing believers that he fanned to a flame in my life and do the same with others. The best part of it is that as I do it, I am always learning something that I didn’t know I didn’t know! It is a mutually beneficial relationship, and as the “rabbi” is so fond of saying, “Tomas, my boy, it is all about relationships!”

I know that now!



Author: Tom Tanner

I'm a follower of Christ, husband, and father. Over the last few years I have been learning how to dig deeper into God's Word and letting it influence more of my life. As I learn, try, fail, and repeat in this process I am seeing God's hand more and more in my life and that of my family as well. This journey is long, hard, and at times a little lonely, but living a Relentless life for Christ has rewards that reach beyond me and my family. My prayer is that it brings God glory and leaves a legacy that will show His influence in my life.

I would love to hear your comments here or e-mail them privately to

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