It’s important to me that I be fully present when Jesus presents himself. I do not want to miss His opportunities but embrace them when they arrive. With over forty years of zigzagging on this path that leads to Life, I’ve realized how easily distracted I am by shiny things and big noises. There is so much buzz on this planet, that being quiet and paying attention is a lifelong discipline and not one confined to grade school. Luckily, the classroom has taught me more about awareness than I originally understood. I want to resemble a teacher.
JESUS PRESENTS HIMSELF
I remember the first day of school. Maybe not day one of kindergarten, but of another year when everything wasn’t quite as scary new. Say second or third grade. The room was cheery and clean, desks aligned in perfect rows awaiting to be filled with number two pencils, pink erasers, and wiggly people. A single name was written in chalk at the head of the class…that of our teacher. Who would that person be?
A bell rung time to begin. All eyes went to the front, bodies turned forward to see who would close the door and how we would be addressed. Fear and anticipation lay together side by side like the Crayolas we brought with us. The Master would turn to look at us, and smile. Good morning class, I am your teacher….
“When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.” -Mark 6:34 ESV
Hindsight is 20/20 of course. I could have read into who this person was by other details. For instance, the room prepared for us spoke bonanzas. Brightly colored posters, picture books and big labels marking the bins of educational toys lined the walls of this place. This place was decorated to encourage and inspire children like me. It was an invitation to learning. Teacher was saying to us through the set up come and discover!
JESUS CENTERS ON PEOPLE
Up front, a large desk marked the spot the teacher would take, but by far most of the space was allotted for we children, the pupils. In the center of the room were our rows of seats as if to prove the point of a classroom was indeed its class.
I do not have a single memory of having a seat in the front row of any classroom. I never gave this much thought. As a child who never required extra attention, whether by acting out or by apple-polishing, the middle seemed appropriate. My reports were consistently satisfactory. How ironic that I never felt my grades good enough when I was repeatedly rated as such! All we had in Elementary were three marks E, S & N. Excels. Satisfactory. Needs Improvement.
All that time, sitting in the middle, I took in my fellow students. I knew who talked in class, who put in effort, who nodded off. I saw those who received affirmations and others getting the reprimand, the nice and the naughties. Early childhood education taught me, covertly, to pay attention to the others in the class. To look laterally at the people around me and take cues from the teacher as to how to respond.
In many cases, the teacher knew what was going on with the students outside of school walls. This information was key to having compassion with those who were struggling. One of my friends had a parent that had severe mental health issues. Another was navigating divorce in her home. School performance became secondary to caring for the broken hearts of these kids.
CALLED TO CARE
When Christ, the great teacher, returned to his disciples after his resurrection, he had a lesson for Peter. Three times Jesus asked, “Peter, do you love me?” And upon Peter’s affirmation, the Lord commanded, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17) For personal reasons, this lesson needed repeating. One. Two. Three. The teacher knew the backstory of his student and didn’t mind the repetition.
Jesus was teaching his pupils to care for others. He set the stage of encouragement and inspiration and invited them to come, discover and learn about this way of life. He put humanity in the center of the room. His career has always been about giving over gaining.
Likewise, our calling is to look laterally at the students around us and understand there is a reason for their behavior. And that their performance is secondary to the healing of their broken hearts.
I am an academic. I love learning! But sometimes I forget that I am not taught for the purpose of having all that information, but that I share it. Teachers procreate more teachers. Why do we have children but to pour out the love that we hold?
I do not have to wait long for Jesus to present himself. He said himself that when we give to others we are doing it as if to him (Matthew 25:40). All I need to do is look around me and notice that there are people everywhere! Many of these children are really suffering inside. Sometimes it looks like nodding off. Other times it appears as naughtiness. It can even look like someone who knows all the answers. Paying attention and listening to the backstory of my neighbors gives me insight that help me be compassionate.
And what does it look like to “Feed my sheep?” Occasionally it involves food, but more often it looks like listening, praying, and encouraging. Jesus was great about talking with people. He didn’t just preach, but he listened too. He prayed and uplifted. On occasion, he even fed empty bellies. Loving isn’t meant to be hard, but it does take intention.
I think I’m ready to resemble the Teacher.