I get really apprehensive when called to "teach" about Christianity. Give a talk, talk to students, teach a study…it's all a challenge in my brain.
When I'm in the moment and someone brings up a question that I think I can tackle - I'm shocked at what God gives me… (way more than I thought I had already.)
I had a bit of an epiphany…
With teaching middle school (and elementary) I feel like I can really handle the material. Some years I'm discovering wonderful new truths with the students - but it never feels out of my reach. It - meaning the content.
The mystery of religion upsets the equilibrium…makes me think I'm not qualified…I don't know it inside and out…
The answers are sometimes more questions.
When I help a child learn to study - I have a bunch of strategies.. Most times kids get it - one way or another - after twisting it upside down and backwards…meeting them where they are…putting it in their language.
But I don't teach math…can't manipulate it…don't know it well enough…can't explain it more than one way (if that.)
Now - with faith - and Jesus - and Christianity - there are a few things I've got - a few truths I feel secure with. And those are my go to's when I'm called to prepare some kind of teaching. But they are getting pretty well tapped.
(Hence my desire to attend seminary)
(And yet also my apprehension - as it is a journey of faith - and yet also a distinct statement of purpose…)
In fact - I remember - Andy Smith saying - on more than one occasion - "I don't know..."
That always rattled me. Wait - what?? You're the pastor. YOU don't know? How is that possible?
Julie taught me that pastors are humans just like everyone else. (She may not know that she taught me that but I give her credit.)
Of course, as I've come to understand things. There are some things that are up for interpretation. And then - each group interprets some things their own way…and they may even call it fact/truth/the only way to see it... Fascinating.
All that uncertainty… How can it be taught??
How can it not be taught though??
In 5th grade, if we're reading a story and we want to know if that street is a real street in a real town - we can Google it. If we have a question about a Native American tribe - we can Google it.. Information is waiting to be discovered…answers are out there.
I don't feel funny saying - let's explore this further - someone grab an iPad…
You don't have to know all the answers to be a teacher. Teaching doesn't necessarily mean you have access to unlimited answers..
Teaching can be about patterns of thinking…
And big ideas…
I'm just reading some Romans - and all those words that are still kind of foreign to me are all jumbly mumbly…making the message a little bit lost in my head…justified... redeemed.. I spent a fair amount of time fleshing these big ideas out a few years ago.. Clearly I need more study. And I can't
imagine trying to share that stuff..
Tracy Alexander is a middle school teacher in Annapolis, MD. She enjoys leading small groups, painting, singing and hanging out with her beautiful nieces. She attends Trinity United Methodist Church and has been a good friend of Andy and Melinda Smith for years.