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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Lessons on Learning

I love it when awe-inspiring wisdom comes from unexpected and innocent places.

This past spring I taught a Confirmation class of 24 eager (okay, somewhat eager) middle and high school students. With such a large group I knew it would be difficult to get to know them on a personal level so I decided to do an activity to get to know them a little better. I printed out random photos and placed around the classroom. There was a surfer riding a monster wave….a bubbling mountain stream….a bird soaring through a blue sky…a child being drug away from his computer by agitated get the point. I asked the kids to choose the picture that currently described their faith journey and be prepared to tell me why they chose it. I thought this might be a little too challenging for the younger kids but was curious to see what they would pick. I had one honest kid that chose the picture of the child being drug away from his computer – it was obvious that this class wasn’t his idea of fun. Other kids predictably teamed up and ran to the same pictures, those easy to interpret. There were a few, however, who dared to stand on their own. One of them was a quiet, shy sixth grade boy. I admit I was a bit hesitant to call on him at first because I didn’t want to embarrass him but my curiosity got the better of me. I had expected the boys to be drawn to the sports themed pictures but he had chosen a beautiful scene in which the camera was focus up into the trees as rays of sunlight broke through the leaves and scattered on the forest floor. “Why did you choose this picture?” I asked. “How does it describe your faith right now?”

His response blew me away.

“My faith is like the sunlight in this picture. Some of what I learn about Jesus gets through, I understand it, and some of it doesn’t, I’m still in the dark.”

Oh, if only we could all be as enlightened (and honest) as this young man. It seems in this world we are told there is only value in having all the answers. We don’t like to admit we don’t understand or comprehend everything.

I was once at a meeting with two other ministers. I was a brand new local pastor having served only a few months in a church while I completed my final semester in seminary. Another minister was a season “pro” in his 50’s having served most of his adult life as a church pastor. The third pastor was newly retired but had been asked to return to supply a pulpit temporarily; he was nearing 70. The retired pastor was eager to ask me questions about my seminary studies. He quizzed me on the professors and the kind of courses the seminary offered. The other pastor sat without comment. After some time the retired minister asked, “Would they allow me to come and audit some classes? I would love to refresh my mind and be challenged by some new lessons,” and turning to the seasoned pastor asked, “Wouldn’t you?” To which he uttered a scoffing laugh and said, “No, I learned everything I needed to know the first time around.”

How sad to think that we have all the answers and there is nothing new that God would have us to know. My sweet little confirmand had no idea how wise his answer was. (Thank you Grayson for teaching your pastor something that day). The light of Christ shines in all places of our world…sometimes it gets through and we understand it…and sometimes we are still in the dark. How glorious it would be if we allowed those shadows to prompt us to draw closer to Christ and to know him more.

Lord, help us to see the shadows of uncertainty and the dark corners of the unknown as challenges to dig deeper. Let us sit dazzling in the sparkling glory of the forest floor and contemplate your mystery. Let us revel and dance in the twinkling light of your love as we ask our questions and seek your answers. May we ever be seekers of more…more of you…more answers…more life…more love…more peace…more understanding….more.