The Student Becomes The Teacher

I need to first give a disclaimer at the beginning of this post and ask for your forgiveness for the academic language used. I have been sitting in sixty hours of PhD/ThM seminar this week and after that much “academic dialogue” one can not write, let alone think, in any other frame of mind. So if this seems a little “heady” you will know why.

Have you ever seen the Honda commercial that says, “I’m Mr. Opportunity and I’m knocking”? It has to be one of my least favorite commercials yet I was struck by a deep truth while watching it today. Opportunity is knocking! I know it’s simple, but it’s deep. Someone once said, “Opportunity may knock only once, but temptation leans on the doorbell”. The question is: which one do we answer? Which one do we hear?

While “temptation” is a huge issue, I want to focus on the opportunities. There is a thin line between an opportunity and possibility. An opportunity is only a possibility taken advantage of, and according to Shaw, “the possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not react.” You see as Christian we are fast to react but slow to act. We will jump up and shake our fist at the world when faced with the moral decay of society or the political situation if Africa, yet when presented with the possibility to make a difference or join God in ministry we sit right back down. We say, “I need to wait and see if this is really what God wants” and soon the possibility is gone and we have missed our opportunity. If we wait long enough the possibility will pass us by and we will say, “I guess it was not in the will of God.” What a load of crap! Now don’t get me wrong. I strongly believe there is a time to “wait upon the Lord”, however, I also believe God presents Himself in the possibilities and we, as Christians, are very proficient at letting them pass us by. I’ll admit I’m one of the worst. I have a professor who once said, “There are two ways to climb an oak tree. You can either get up and start climbing or you can sit on an acorn.” In my feeble attempt to get off the acorn and start climbing, I want to share with you an opportunity I have.

As many of you know I have been a student for a long time. And in many ways have seen possibilities pass by without any action on my part. Often the question is asked, “Donald, when are you going to be done with school and get on with life? Where are you going to minister?” The implication is that school is not life and that God is on the other side waiting for me to make up my mind and finish so I can begin to minister. In some ways this is true, as many students linger in school because of fear or apathy. However, school is also a calling and can be a place to join God in ministry. Again, it is about climbing the tree or sitting on the acorn.

In the last few weeks I have been presented with the prospect of teaching for the CLD (Contextualized Leadership Development) department at Golden Gate. It is a unique opportunity to combine my extensive experience as a student (almost ten years), my interest in teaching higher education, and my love for missions and ministering to people. I have seen the possibility, seized the opportunity, and I am excited to say I will start teaching Baptist History at San Quentin State Prison next week!

Getting off the acorn was not easy. I have been talking about teaching for years now and when this opportunity came up my first reaction was pass it by because of fear. Then I decided to pray about it. In praying I wanted to hear a booming voice from the sky as a conformation of being in the will of God, yet no voice came. I talked with my wife and we both decided that it was an amazing opportunity which would be in line with where we feel God leading us, yet there was a part of me that wanted to wait until it was too late so I would not have to make the decision. In letting it pass, the decision would ultimately have been made by God and I would be off the hook. I came up with almost every possible excuse for not taking the position. But there was always something inside which pushed me on and told me this was something I needed to do. Was it the still small voice of God, the perceived need for a teacher, the inward desire to teach, or my need to gain a position? I don’t know. I want to believe it was God, and it was his voice, which I had shut out before, but there was no voice from the sky. What I do know is I start teaching next week, and while there is enough anxiety to go around, and I am nervous about my abilities, I am completely at peace with my decision and looking forward to serving God in this way.

Aristotle once said, “Those that know, do. Those that understand teach.” I believe God has prepared me for this and that it is a complex combination of Aristotle’s words. To know and understand in rooted in the same reality, God. In the doing or the teaching, one will find it only when the opportunity is seized and we stand up to act within the will of God. Do I really know? Do I understand? My professors seem to think so and believe it is time for me to teach, but it is only going to be through the power of God that I am able to do this. My goal in regards to teaching is to follow in the words of Soren Kierkegaard, “To be a teacher in the right sense is to be a learner. I am not a teacher, only a fellow student.”

I want to encourage all of you to look at the possibilities, seize the opportunities, and get off the acorn. Those who climb seem to be well rounded, properly stretched out and flexible, as well as growing in their ability and strength. For those who stay on the acorn, they seem to be lacking in these areas and soon find themselves unable to get up for lack of muscle growth. Besides, those who stay too long on the acorn seem to always be walking around with something up their butt! And I don’t want to be on of those people. Amen?


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