May 18, 1993
A few weeks ago I did something I have never done before; I wore a black gown and mortar board and crossed a platform to receive a degree. Humanly speaking, I graduated.
This year’s graduating class at Briercrest was large, over 190 students. It felt good to line up and sit among them; to watch happy faces as each received printed rewards for their efforts. For many, several years of study was over. For a few, this was only a step toward reaching their total educational goal.
Even at my age, I see graduation as just one more step. Education never stops. I have been learning all my life, as we all do, because life itself demands we continually add to, adapt, change, and use what we are learning.
Over 100 years ago, John M. Gregory wrote the Seven Laws of Teaching. The principles from this classic are still used in Christian education today. One of them says for learning to take place, the student must be receptive to being taught, attentive and interested in the lesson.
This implies that teachers must be on the ball. Lesson material should be interesting and communicated in terms students can understand. The teacher must demonstrate how it has value and how it can be incorporated into their lives. How much a student profits from a lesson depends a great deal on the ability of the teacher.
Transferring that concept to the larger classroom of life makes it clear that life itself is not the teacher. According to Gregory, the teacher must know the lesson, teach from a full mind and clear understanding, and communicate in such a way suitable to the student’s level. Since life is not an intelligent entity, life cannot be the teacher.
If not, then who does put life’s lessons together? Our parents? Sometimes they do. One parent used some facts of life to teach her children a valuable lesson about money. She allowed them to spend whatever they wanted from their savings at a carnival. While it was difficult to be quiet as their precious and hard-earned savings disappeared, that mother saw her children learn a lesson no mere lecture could teach.
However, parents are limited in manipulating life. Not all of us are skillful in making each child’s circumstances a learning exercise. Only God has the ability to use fully life as a classroom, even take “all things and work them together for our good” (Romans 8:28).
Only God teaches from a position of perfect understanding. He knows what each student thinks, even what we will say “before a word is on our tongue...” (Psalm 139:4). He discerns what we already know and what we need to learn next, even before we ourselves do.
God also has the power to control all elements in the classroom. At times, we wonder why He allows certain circumstances yet He insures even each temptation is not beyond what we can bear. He provides a way out so we do not have to sin (1 Corinthians 10:13).
The mortar board and gown were symbols we humans use to mark one step of learning but God marks our growth in our character. With each lesson, we develop increased perseverance. He says that those who have it are “mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4).
For those reasons, I have confidence in my future education but I also know I’m not there yet. Some of His lessons have made me wonder if I was in the right classroom. Even though all those lessons profit me, but I still need a passing grade on total perseverance, and several other subjects. Only a completely wise and totally gifted Teacher can use life to teach me everything I need to learn.