God the Teacher
It’s the beginning of the school year and teachers everywhere are preparing to hear the stock responses that students love to give. Since Jesus is the Good Teacher, He has probably heard similar responses from us, His pupils. I wonder what God thinks when He hears us say things like:
- Is this going to be on the test? or Do we have to know this? or When am I going to use this? Teachers are always expected to be teaching to the test or teaching to a test. Separating the sheep from the goats, students sift information into test material and non-test material, the latter being cast into “the eternal fire prepared for” trigonometry and sentence diagramming. I don’t want to know more than is needed to pass. While it’s true that there isn’t technically very much required to attain salvation, the Catholic faith recognizes the immense depths and wonders that await those (in this life and the next) who don’t just want a D- in their relationship with God, but are shooting for an A.
- I don’t get it. The teacher will ask “What don’t you get?”, a question upon which the student usually hasn’t much reflected. Usually, the student is stuck at step eight of a problem because he hasn’t seen how the previous seven steps frame the perplexing one. The Catholic faith is too confusing. What don’t you get? It is simple enough for someone with a Catechism and a commitment to prayer to help someone in this situation, answering first their objections to the existence of God, then to the historicity of Jesus and the Gospels, then to the establishment of the Church on St. Peter, etc.
- Do you grade on a curve? Achievement is expected to be subjective, not objective. If none of us do well, we can’t be blamed for that (actually, it’s your fault). I’m not a bad guy; I haven’t killed anyone. Jesus doesn’t tell us that our goal in the spiritual life is to be in the top half or even to be best, but to be perfect. The best mile time is 3:43.13; the perfect mile time is 0:00.00. Do you love on a curve (your spouse, friends, God), loving an equal amount as most other people do, or do you set a higher standard for yourself?
- Is there anything I can do for extra credit? The procrastinator’s plea for mercy which simultaneously involves a violation of justice to other students not given the same opportunity. I’ll repent on my deathbed or I’ll make up for it in purgatory. There are only so many hours in a class or in a life; let’s use them well for His glory. There’s an abundance of study materials to ensure that we are well-prepared during our allotted time.
- We get to drop our lowest grade, right? This is, of course, true for some classes. It’s useful for the unforeseen situations but can also easily be used to let our performance slide just this one or two times. Actually, the unbelievable thing about God is that he lets us drop all of our lowest grades, if only we make a good Confession.
Okay, so God is a much better teacher than I am. I can’t count the number of times where I’ve felt like the unforgiving servant, hoping I will be forgiven by God for actions I won’t tolerate among my students (or kids). As lame as the above excuses are, I’m sure I’ve cooked up dozens more to try to convince God to take it easy on me. I think He does so because of my lameness.
The best I hope for with my students (or kids) is to instill a love of the truth which leads to a love of Truth, and hope that my own ego and failings do not get in the way.
(I will avoid making a Genesis joke about bringing an apple for the Teacher.)