Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Captive Audience

I recently had an after-school tutoring arrangement with an older gentleman. He's going back to school at a local community college, and once a week he would drop by my classroom to refresh algebra skills he hasn't used since high school.

He's a very willing and engaged student. After our first meeting, I was struck by a thought: that was the best class I've had since I became a high school teacher!

Well, of course. No offense to my own awesome students, but this guy was eager to learn. He wanted to understand, had invested money in a course he had to pass. He was willing to put in the hard work of paying attention, focusing, practicing, note-taking, and learning from mistakes. He knew how to focus. He just gets it.

That made him so EASY to teach. What teacher doesn't dream of a captive audience? We progressed quickly through the material, and my thoughts rolled through my mind elegantly and simply, letting me make relevant connections, getting me fired up. It reminded me of how good I can be in a classroom when I'm not stopping to refocus somebody every thirty seconds. (This might be true of your own teachers, too.)

I remember turning to God afterwards and telling him honestly, "I wish more of my students were like that."

I was caught off guard by what God said in return:

"So do I."

He didn't say it with annoyance or judgment - more like gentle humor. But I felt busted.

I'm enrolled in God's school of life and righteousness. My enrollment fee has been paid for by Christ, and I've put my own time and reputation into living as a Christian. People are watching to see how I live, and souls are on the line.

Am I a willing, determined student?

There's a science to being a good scholar. Many of us perform it daily without thinking. Honoring the financial deposit that we've made (or that someone else made on our behalf) is a lifestyle. We come to class. We listen to the teacher. We take notes, ask questions, do the assigned reading. We study and prepare for tests, work with classmates, examine and challenge our beliefs. We rearrange our life outside school to assist our studies and eliminate distractions. And if we don't get it at first, we go to the instructor and ask more questions, spend extra time with him.

Do I take this kind of initiative with God? Not often enough. Sometimes I'm just that slacker sitting in the back row, playing Angry Birds and thinking I can turn everything in at the last minute.

Here's the thing - when it comes to God's school, we're ALL behind. Theologically speaking, there is no curve - just one global remedial class. Our flesh and the enemy are set against us. The world mocks. And life itself is hard. None of us can afford to dally around here. We all have to be taking notes, doing the reading, spending time with the instructor. He is the best qualified to renew our minds. No self-teaching here.

A bad grade in this class doesn't mean going to hell, of course. Our destiny is secure. But it could mean that our fruits in this life get stunted. Our witness can suffer; others won't see Christ in us effectively. I don't want to squander any of God's investment.

Our own joy and peace is at risk, too. God is so much more than just an instructor, a title that can sound distant and detached. He is our Father, our Rescuer, and our very Life. But it's not just going to come on a silver platter, anymore than good grades in math class will. The enemy opposes. Our own flesh tries to trip us up, keep us ignorant, distract us.
"The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy; I come that they may have life, and have it to the full." - John 10:10
The offer is there. God is willing and eager to teach.

I want to be a good spiritual student. Take initiative, listen, work, learn, shut out distractions, be the kind of student that every teacher longs to have in his classroom. I owe my savior nothing less. And I have everything to gain.

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