Best Laid Plans

I made my G period class push the desks back to the wall and sit on the floor during Thursday’s lesson as we read the epilogue to Ray’s Read the Bible for a Change. I’d already done the lesson a bit differently with my F period students the day before. I adjust the presentation of content to match the personalities in the room. It’s always interesting to see the reactions when I do lessons where student’s aren’t seated in chairs at desks. This particular one, though, we talk about wonder as Ray (and I) explain that students can’t be forced to follow Scripture. There’s some personal autonomy and the work of the Holy Spirit involved, but I can create conditions for wonder. I paused in the middle of reading the textbook and made the students look out the window at the bare tree that grows next to the shed. In the fall, it’s the most vibrant red, and I asked each of the students to do their best to remember to look at that tree in the coming fall and think of God’s creativity and beauty.

Right now, on the cusp of spring here, there are no leaves or even buds just yet. There’s a different kind of beauty in the season of storing, the hibernation the tree experiences before blooming again. I don’t write that tree into my lesson plans, but I can’t tell you how many times it’s been a perfect object lesson to advance my content. I do plan my lessons carefully, but I also have to adapt on a minute by minute basis in response to the comments or questions of my students. This week had a lot of really good questions – and plenty of silly ones. In the epilogue to his book, Ray talks about how the goal of his text really is to get readers to ask the best questions when they approach Scripture.

Side note, guys, Ray is pretty great. Multnomah University just streamed a conference on the Hebrew Bible, and it’s a huge testimony to the work Ray has done in teaching students to love God and love others as they study the Bible carefully and humbly in order to be changed.

As I wrap up teaching this textbook, I am struck once again by how I can only make space for the Spirit to move. My job isn’t to churn out good Christian kids; my job is to make space for students to encounter Jesus through Bible study methods and honest conversations, asking good questions and pointing to Jesus, making space for the Holy Spirit and honouring God with my lessons. Just like five years ago I had students learn the existence of legit pigeons was evidence for the teleological argument for the existence of God, this year there will be a group of students who look at the bright red leaves on a tree in the fall and are struck by the wonder of our imaginative Creator.

There’s no guarantee of life change in these students, but I see these tiny shoots of green growth ready to sprout from good soil. I’ve spent a good deal of time telling these juniors that I hope and pray they change their class reputation from being rowdy and rude to being kind and courteous. One student took that to heart this week as we talked about how I couldn’t offer him extra points in his grade to say nice things but that it would be a valuable exercise to intentionally compliment three people that day; he immediately looked around the room and said something kind to each person he knew. There’s no way for me to check your work or give you a grade, but would you take a moment to say three nice things to three different people today?

I’ve spent a few minutes pondering what else I can write about all that’s happened to me this week because there was a lot of stress and heaviness and leg spasms, but honestly, the best thing I can tell you was that the kid I mentioned above chose to say something nice to me. That moment mattered this week when other things went wrong, and I can’t stress enough how much your choice to be intentionally kind to someone could brighten their day.

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