2000-02-04 - Unlikely Teachers
When we think of learning, we often think of listening to our minister from a church pew, or being a student in a classroom. These are laudable methods for gaining knowledge, but sometimes life's most profound lessons come via unlikely teachers. I am honored to be the chairman of our church's Refugee Resettlement program. We are sponsoring a family from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire. The family hasn't arrived in our state yet, but already I have learned from them. I was feeling sorry for myself recently, that I had a 50-minute wait in my pharmacy. But then the thought came to me that these refugees, who have been away from their home for two years, would be glad to have the money to pay for the medicine, grateful to be waiting for medicine and not waiting for hours, for basic necessities, delighted to have the excellent medical care we in the USA sometimes take for granted.
Though it may be the last thing in the world we feel like doing at the time, sometimes when we are hurting deeply, the best action we can take is to help someone else, which makes us focus outwardly instead of inwardly. I was reading in my denomination's magazine for women, about a work group who went on a short-term missions trip, to help Honduran hurricane victims. The suffering around them overwhelmed two of the women. As often happens in Christian ministry, the people whom they were there to minister to, ended up teaching them. They learned valuable lessons about dependence upon God, as well as having inner peace in spite of external turmoil. One of them said something simple and yet profound: "Maybe I am here not to give but to receive." She went on to admit she had come to the end of her own resources, and was forced to depend on others and God.
Other unlikely teachers include the children in our lives. Their wisdom is simple and uncluttered by baser motives. Even Jesus told us to emulate them:
(Mat 18:3-4 NRSV) and said, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
In addition, we can learn from those whom we disagree with, even nonbelievers. I don't mean doctrine of course, but sometimes they see things about ourselves more clearly than we do -- i.e. how we come across when we are witnessing. For example, sometimes we seem to be trying to debate someone into the Kingdom or ramming Christ down someone's throat in our well-meaning zeal, rather than being quiet, gentle and respectful and letting the Spirit do His work.
(Titus 3:2 NRSV) to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone.
If our eyes, ears and hearts are open, we can learn from any person or circumstance. A good friend taught me years ago, that in all situations -- whether painful or joyful -- to always ask God "what are you teaching me in this?" Please join me in asking Him to help us have more teachable spirits, and to be open to all His "classrooms" for us.