Friday, November 16, 2007

Teach. Learn.

I spent the day reading and writing. That's what Fridays are supposed to be in my world. When your job is largely teaching, learning becomes an even more crucial activity. I've taken rather seriously the Pauline mandate to Timothy:

"In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry."

I would like to think that I have always been faithful to these words. I really have no right on my own to assume they apply directly to me, but I have felt as though they probably do since I was a kid. There have been seasons of my life that these words were easier or harder to contextualize. "Preaching the Word" (proclaiming Jesus?) is easier to figure out in a church (house church, mega church, recovery church, whatever) than it is, for instance, working in a Las Vegas comedy show, auditioning for a Mentos commmercial or interacting with Hollywood producers. I should confess that there were times when I probably did not "preach the word" in the latter examples. Sometimes because of fear, but normally because I had no real idea as to how to do it. I'd like to think that I was always "prepared" to teach though.

I think most teachers, educators, preachers, etc. spend too much time preparing their next teaching and not enough time preparing the teacher. In a spiritual context, this preparation could mainfest as prayer or meditation. It also must manifest as learning. The best teachers are compulsive teachers who were first compulsive learners. The best teachers are able to prepare for an assigment, but are also able to teach at the drop of a hat. Jesus seems to be that sort of Rabbi. So does Paul. I could be way off, but I see Paul coming into a room and just being ready to improvise, to interact, to discern the room, to preach the word. I love that Paul can teach at a synagouge and quote the Torah and within the hour be teaching in the streets of Athens quoting "their own poets." That's a teacher. Same message. Different words.

In the spirit of learning, I spent this afternoon at Caribou Coffee with GK Chesterton, Stanley Hauerwas and my new ESV Bible. The four of us had a good time, but Chesterton (below) stole the show. I'm reading his book The Everlasting Man (1925). HIs masterpiece, Orthodoxy, sincerely changed my life. I have to fight through 80 years of history and cross the Atlantic ocean to get to him, so I know that I can't always fully undersand him. I'll give him this, though. He's smart - and funny. Those are two things that I have (not so) secretly aspired to be my whole life. (Yes, this could be in itself a major problem for me, but we all have to admit these things from time to time.) I feel like the amateur thinker and hack comic that I am when I read him. I'm hoping a small measure of his GKishness rubs off as I finish the text.

This seems like a good time to announce that I have officially applied for grauduate work at the University of Dayton. I'll hear if I have been accepted in the coming weeks. The plan is to take the long road - a class or two each semester. Several professors there have studied under some of my influencers and I'm looking forward to wandering back into academia after a dozen years away. Part of why I haven't pursued more formal education is that I never felt ready to settle on a major. It seems like looking back I was running from a theology degree the whole time, so I'm just going to go for it.

So, here's to learning and to the sober reality that we can never think our way out of our problem. Here's to the grace to be allowed to know in part until we know fully and are fully known.

2 comments:

Sandy S. said...

Joe-
At the risk of wearing out an already worn out quote, Eric Liddell said in Chariots of Fire, "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure". I sense that as a compulsive teacher and learner you feel God's pleasure - your passion is evident. I am not sure why, but I cried when I read this post of yours - you are where He wants you. So many want to get to that place.
Have fun re-entering the world of academia. I submitted my readmit undergrad application to Concordia last week - they are willing to take their token geriatric back after she skipped a semester. Life is good.

Helen Ann said...

You're going for it - Break a leg! And enjoy! My time in grad school was good even though it ultimately was not where God wanted me. Maybe one day when it won't bring debt! :)

Being a complete geek, I actually miss having text books and some Q and A to work through...If you bring your books to church can I visit them? Maybe sniff the ink?