I’ve never ever thought of myself as a teacher. Truthfully, I never thought I had anything to teach because a teacher has very specific things that I don’t have — like knowledge. A teacher knows things. She has enough wisdom to answer any question that comes flying at her. It’s not a big deal for her though. She’s got it all figured out.
That’s not me.
I have very few things figured out. I know a couple things. I know that I have this thing for Jesus. I know I like kids though I’m really not sure if I want my own. Art gets me excited. There are a few other things that I could highlight about myself — but, these affirmations aren’t normal. For some strange reason, we tend to define ourselves by what we’re not. Have you ever noticed that? We’re quick to say what we’re not. Oh, I can’t do that, we say. That’s not me, we insist. For whatever strange reason, we define ourselves in opposition against our worst nightmare. It’s not only that we don’t want to be those things — but we can’t seem to find the words to articulate who we are without talking about what we’re not. Political candidates exemplify this, but church people have a particularly awesome knack. Don’t get me wrong. I’m no better. I can’t introduce myself without the phrase falling off my lips, I’m Christian but not like that. I’d like to stop that.
When I arrived at my first call, these people of God quickly named me as Pastor and Teacher. I knew I was going to be the first part. That was part of the deal, but I didn’t see myself as Teacher. Not then. Not until I actually started teaching. I have no idea how that happened. It just happened. Somehow I started to own it. I really am a teacher. I still don’t have all of the answers. I don’t fit into that definition that I kept bumping my head against and I answer most questions by asking “I don’t know, but what do you think?” It’s authentic. I’m not trying to be any one other myself — and it feels amazing.
Of course, there’s a catch. I read this article in The New York Times today where Bruce Feller wonders about how to talk about God with his child. I agree with the conclusion. Be honest. Be really, really, really honest because your child will see through your untruths — and it won’t be pretty. You’ll feel worse than you did when you thought you were giving the right answer. Trust me. It’s better to be authentic. However, I’m not a parent. That’s the catch. I love to work with kids and I spend a lot of time thinking about how we authentically reveal our faith to our children. Of course, they’re not my children. Other people are tucking those kids in at night. Other people care for them when the kids are sick. I just pop up here and there. I’ll be in the Emergency Room when the child has an asthma attack. I get to tell them stories on Sunday morning. And then, sometimes, I’m there to ask really hard questions about their faith when they’re 13. Right now, there are parents asking me about how to address the tough topics that our teens face. I’m scratching my head on this one because I’m not a parent. I know what it was like to go through those problems when I was a teen. I watched from afar as my parents did those teen years again with my sister, but I’m not a parent. I’ve never done it myself. I have no wisdom. I know. I know. I don’t need to have any wisdom. I just need to show up and ask the tough questions. It’s what I do. It’s how I teach. I know. Like everyone else, I occasionally get stuck. I forget that stuff I know about myself and focus on “what I’m not.”
Still, I know what I am. I’ve just gotta figure out a way to claim it.