Dabbling vs. Mastery

I love to dabble.

I like to pick up little things and try my hand at them, and I love to learn. Nothing feels off limits, so it is lots of fun to dabble.

I dabble a little in web coding, and dabbling is how I learned to play guitar (and drums, for that matter, although I totally play like I learned through dabbling). Graphic design, which I’ve done now for almost a decade, started out as dabbling.

In college, I dabbled in teaching myself Russian. I’ve dabbled in golf, enjoying the game and the serenity of getting out in gorgeous weather and picturesque landscaping. I never got to be any good, but I dabbled.

I was made very aware of this tendency this week while exploring our new neighborhood. I left my apartment owned by a Turkish woman (who, for the record, is the best landlady we could have ever imagined), went down to get a haircut from what turned out to be an Italian man (I’ve dabbled in Italian), and we went to the park where we met another mom, who moved to Germany four years ago from Poland.

I’ve been so aware of the multi-cultural nature of Germany this week. And as someone who loves different languages, I desire to talk to each of these people in their own tongue.

I found myself, barely in Deutschland for a month, pondering how I would pick my next language.

Aiming for Mastery

Dabbling is fun, and there is always the excitement of a new thing, the first feelings of success utilizing a new skill. But mastery is harder.

Mastery means seeking to break through those challenging moments. When the language ceases making sense and you find yourself asking “but why?” only to have native speakers tell us “because that feels right,” mastery requires us to lean into that confusion.

Mastery requires you to ask questions and actually do the hard work of understanding and committing to the answers you find.

Dabbling is the easy and fun, but now I need to focus on mastery. Mastery of German, specifically. I need to quiet that desire to jump tracks and go to something else, hunker down, and learn German.

Just German (for now).


All of the people I mentioned above have been in Germany for multiple years and spoke German, making learning “their” language less crucial. But really becoming fluent is hard, and it makes your head hurt, and you end up exhausted at the end of every day, and pushing through those things is the only way to achieve mastery.

Not just German

The more I thought about this, the more I thought about how much we do this in life, specifically in our spiritual lives. I’m particularly prone to dabbling, but I think many of us are as well because it it easier than dealing with the tension.

In our spiritual lives, it is easier to depend on the church to “feed” us than to get up every morning for prayer and Bible study and feed ourselves.

When things get tough at our church, do we jump ship to a church down the street where more is offered, or do we stick it out and see how God works?

Do we seek mastery of our theology? Do we ask questions of Scripture and do the hard work of reading and categorizing and seeing how Scripture answers those questions?

When faced with challenges to our belief system, do we just shrug it off (“It’s just a faith thing.”) or do we go seek to resolve the challenge that people raised?

Do we jump from song to song and experience to experience, looking for new spiritual highs to carry us over to the next one, or do we hunker down and make sure that we are 100% certain about what we believe and why we believe it?

Are we ready to give an answer to anyone that asks about the reason for the hope that we have, as Peter commands believers to be (1 Pt. 3:15)?

I love to dabble, and I hope that love won’t go away. In a world where God has created so many wonderful and fascinating things, why should anyone ever be bored? I love that we can go find things out about the world and, in turn, about God.

But today I want to encourage you, as I am encouraging myself in this new season of life, to resist the temptation to dabble in the important things.

Pursue depth.

Seek mastery.

Seek the Master.



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