For the last four weeks I’ve attempted to introduce you to an appetizing assortment of friends who’ve already taken their seats at Heaven’s table. Tom’s life inspired us all to take advantage of every opportunity to share Jesus. Ed and Jean encouraged us to be intentional in our service to others. Carolyn left us a legacy of joy in the face of suffering, and Mack’s life reinforced the belief that grace humbly received creates contagious generosity. However, I’ve saved the best for last.
I first met this friend, who was also my teacher, when I was thirteen. I had heard about him for years, but after I got in his class I understood why some liked him and some didn’t. His small acts of selfless kindness attracted many, while causing others to become skeptical. His greatest desire was to simply meet each of our needs; but some doubted his ability and even his sincerity. They considered his generosity a mere ploy to get us to behave. I have to admit that’s what I wrestled with for a long time. How could a teacher care so much for such ungrateful students? How could he continue year after year to use his own money, his own resources, and his own time to help so many? My immature eyes just didn’t see the wisdom in that.
I watched this teacher all through my days as a student. I paid special attention to his teaching methods after I, too, decided to become a teacher – hopefully one like him. I studied. I watched. I listened. I didn’t want to miss a single thing that could help me earn the love and respect I’d seen him receive. In my mind, the greatest thing that could happen would be for me to teach so well that my teacher/friend would give me a wink and a nod with a big thumbs-up. My greatest desire was earning his approval.
That’s when I was given my first real test (I mean, class). They were rowdy and disrespectful at times. They believed my job was to simply provide a comfortable place for them to hang out away from their jail cell homes. They tested everything I ever thought about teaching. They helped me see that not everyone learns the same way, thinks the same way, nor do they have the same background experiences. Each one of them brought a pre-determined set of values to the mix, as well as a boatload of dented, overweight baggage. Most resented our time together. They had encountered previous teachers whose greatest desire was for them to behave. Period. When they didn’t, they felt ridiculed, embarrassed, and belittled for not conforming. They viewed kindness as being distributed only in proportion to their adherence to the rules. My colorful and engaging presentations on “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Life in Five Easy Steps” was not working with this street savvy crew.
What was I missing? I had studied so hard to get it right. I tried every technique and new method available, but these non-conforming rebels were missing the point! I needed help to get them back on the straight and narrow. How could I possibly instill a love for learning in students who knew no love?
Ah ha! I’d go back to my original notes. I’d pretend I knew nothing of teaching and try to see old ideas with fresh eyes – eyes that had been opened wide by a foul-smelling potpourri of backgrounds and behaviors. That’s when my teacher/friend called. He’d witnessed my predicament and knew it was time to help. He listened to my woes, and then quietly and humbly reminded me that it wasn’t the techniques nor the methods he relied on, it was love. I, the one on the straight and narrow, was the one who had missed the point!
Love motivated him to care for his students by purchasing the gifts he showered on them. Love gave away his treasures. Love spent the time it took to teach hearts. Because of his love for all of us, he could look past our mistakes to find nuggets of golden good buried deep within us. His loving kindness blew away our shame for not behaving just right. His joy allowed us all to smile and laugh as we reveled in time spent with him. The students sitting at his feet came eager to learn. They wanted to talk to him and hear his perspective. They didn’t respect him because he forced them to behave, they respected him because he didn’t. Their love for him increased because they knew without a doubt he loved them first!
In the months following that call, I developed a new attitude. My Teacher became my very best Friend. No more behaving to earn His approval. I had that at thirteen; I just didn’t know it! I still want to be just like Him, but now I see that His greatest desire for me is to simply be His friend and show love to as many people as possible. So now, my greatest desire is to introduce others to this Love I have found. When they get to know Him, they will love Him too.
I’m hoping many of you know my friend – His name is Jesus!
If you’d like to know more about how to become friends with Jesus, just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to introduce you! If you like what you read, why not share this and spread the Love!
“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.” Psalm 9:1-2