By Cecil Murphey
Teach me to follow you, and I will obey your truth. Always keep me faithful. –PSALMS 86:11, CEV
“Watch out if you get Miss Linder,” said a boy in fifth grade. “She’s the meanest teacher in the school.” I was in third grade then and didn’t worry about Miss Irma Linder. But when I entered fifth grade, I was assigned to her class.
She was tough. Mean. Demanding. She had eyes that saw everything we did, even with her back to us. But despite it all, Miss Linder was my favorite teacher in grade school. I learned more from her than any of the others. She had a way of making me want to learn. When I did less than my best, I had the feeling that I had let her down as much as I had let myself down.
Since then, I’ve had other teachers I’ve loved or admired. But there’s no question about my all-time, lifelong favorite teacher. His name is Jesus. Even his enemies called him “teacher” (rabbi) and recognized his great skill of communicating truth to his hearers.
When I talk to my Favorite Teacher, I hear myself begin sentence after sentence with, “Teach me….” Those are sincere words and express my heart’s desire. I want to learn and I believe my Favorite Teacher wants me to learn.
One problem is that I want all the knowledge and the understanding right now. However, it just doesn’t work that way in education. Like any top-quality teacher, Jesus instructs us slowly, methodically, and carefully.
My attitude reminds me of the time I learned the keyboard. I took typing in tenth grade, in the days before computers came into the classroom. The first class period, our teacher taught us typewriter basics, and before the session ended, we had our first chance to hit the keys. She made us use the small finger on either hand-our weakest fingers-and type half a page of nothing but a; a; a; a;. After mistakes and laughter at not being able to give the fingers enough pressure, we learned two more letters. Using the ring finger on both hands, we soon typed a half-page of a;sl as;sl a;sl a;sl.
By the end of the class, typing the same four letters bored me. Worse, they weren’t even words. I wanted to type real words and sentences. The wise teacher, anticipating our attitude, urged us to resist. “Learn the keyboard right and you’ll become fast and accurate typists,” she told us.
I didn’t like it, but I did it her way. For weeks, we struggled through the entire keyboard. To make it worse, in our classes, we didn’t have the letters on the keys, so it was truly typing by feeling the keys.
I’ve now been typing so many years that my fingers dance across the keys automatically. I don’t think about hitting an a or an f, I just type. It’s automatic because I learned to do it the right way.
The parallels are probably obvious. We start small, and we learn step by step. We develop proficiency as we grasp and assimilate the lessons Jesus has for us. Then we move on to more complex lessons.
Occasionally, I have to remind myself that I’m the pupil and Jesus is the teacher. I forget and instruct him about how to run the universe, how to take care of my family and my friends, or at least how to structure my life.
Most days, however, I sincerely feel I’m an apt pupil. I’ve been sensitive to my Favorite Teacher’s instructions and obeyed implicitly. On my bad days, it’s not so much that I don’t want to learn, but I just don’t seem to get the lesson.
Even when I don’t get what I’m supposed to learn, I can come to the Teacher for help. I want to learn, but I don’t want to keep typing a;sl I want to rush into the big stuff and have him explain everything to me.
That’s often where my spiritual learning curve takes a downward spiral. I can’t understand the divine rationale for what’s going on. I ask questions, and sometimes I get an answer, but more often, there’s no response.
I’ve begun to figure out the matter of silence. For instance, when I pray for my Favorite Teacher to teach me how to live a godly life more perfectly, what I really mean is, “Teacher, make it easy for me.”
What I don’t mean is, “Teacher, make me figure it out for myself. Stay at my elbow, but make me do the work.” The reality is that God wants the latter for me. Some of my biggest learning spurts have come when I’m totally confused. I can’t figure out what to do next. Sometimes I feel angry or irritated because my Favorite Teacher isn’t feeding me answers. I don’t like doing all the work myself.
I think of Peter from time to time. He got instructions from Jesus along with a few promises. Jesus promised that Peter would strengthen the other apostles, that he would be a rock, and even told him how he would die. But he never laid out all the teachings for him in six easy lessons. And Peter didn’t have a perfect learning record either.
Despite the man’s up and downs, the Teacher didn’t give up on him. He kept working with him, pushing him when he wasn’t ready and nudging him when he needed it.
Most of us are like Peter. Some of the lessons our Favorite Teacher wants us to grasp we pick up on immediately. But other insights don’t come in a day or even over a period of months. Some are lessons we learn only after years of following Jesus. We never graduate from the School of Godliness.
Even though we don’t understand all the reasons for our mess-ups on many of the lessons, Jesus is the Favorite Teacher. He loves us and wants us to learn, enough that he won’t give up on us. His word to us is, “Come to me…learn from me.”
When we respond and pray, “Teach me what I need to know,” Jesus hears us. Those two words alone, “Teach me,” please the Teacher because he likes eager pupils.
Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees, then I will keep them to the end. –Psalms 119:33, NIV
My Favorite Teacher,
make me an eager pupil,
encourage me to learn,
and thanks for not giving up on me. Amen.
Rev. Emmanuel Bart Michael B. Kimwell
Beulah Land IEMELIF Center
Greenfields 1 Subdivision
Marytown Circle, Novaliches
Quezon City, Philippines