For twenty-eight years I have been teaching children. That ages me a bit, but at 42, it also reveals since high school I’ve been reading and teaching to faces without wrinkles.
Early on, it all started by being ‘volunteered’ (read: pressured) by church-going, child-ministry-directing adults who wanted a young man with good grades to teach others what I knew about God and the Bible.
Since then, if there have been children around me, I’ve taught them something—albeit probably poorly. Reading. Skiing. Math. Software engineering. Science. Violin. Bible. Philosophy. Trig. To teens, college students, pre-teens, and pre-k.
In 2016, I’ve sat as big supreme overlord in that child-sized red plastic chair long enough.
So, it’s time for me to say I’m done. But not done like most would think. Most think being done means standing up and letting someone else’s posterior get hurt by those four plastic chair bolts.
But I don’t mean completely done.
That’s right, service-oriented Hipsters, not so fast. You can take your beards and typewriters, and knit your own Bible Times flannel graph from one of your lumberjack shirts. Just keep away from my teaching job, because even though I’m throwing in the towel on teaching the way I always did, I’m going to stay in the little kids’ classroom awhile.
Why? While I’m done teaching in my old way, I’m not done sitting around kids, because something changed in me during the last 18 years or so.
But before I tell you about that, I’ve gotta reminisce to a time before any of these children around me got here, and before my parents were even an idea in their parents’ minds.
A while back, a 12-year-old boy was walking around talking to strangers in a busy religious centre. His Dad and Mom went looking for him because as they looked around their traveling party, they realized they had pulled a ‘Home Alone,’ miscounting the kids.
Their oldest child was gone.
Here’s what was tweeted by the eyewitness media:
‘When his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.’ Luke 2:48-52 [Emphasis mine]
Alright, not tweeted.
But the response of the boy’s mother was a bit more meaningful than posting a selfie entitled ‘Found’ on Instagram. In fact, the experience changed the boy’s Mom’s heart’s desire’s stacking-order.
Mary was changed forever by watching God submit to Us. He taught the group of teachers—and in so doing, he taught the ‘Us’ in God With Us. Not God Above Us,but God With Us. Nothing less could change her heart. And once she saw it, everything else she had ever seen was less than this. That is what it meant by ‘treasured up.’
When Mary was told she would give birth to Immanuel (’God With Us’), she was overwhelmed. But when she saw the God With Us go to the Us, instruct the Us, and finally submit to the Us, the treasure was found. And it overwhelmed her other desires.
She awoke that day treasuring different things: thoughts, prayers, concerns, about finding the Son of God—what if I lose the Son of God?—and left with a new treasure: the things of His doing, and just Him. The Boy God With Us.
Like Mary’s experience, a treasured-up type of experience by nature overwhelms all our worried concerns. Frankly, anything that does not shine more brightly than our other senses is not worth treasuring. We might as well sideline the Prince of Peace if he cannot give us peace. No?
This is why I’m done with teaching in the normal, top-down way. The Christian (by definition) is not a person who is convinced of certain facts, but someone who has been so changed by the grace of God With Us, through faith in God With Us, that the facts always support his position.
If we say “No,” to demonstrating to others the gospel, we have forgotten that Christianity itself is nothing less than storytelling by witnesses… witnesses just like us.
If our God With Us has been treasured-up—has been stacked on top of money concerns, friendship concerns, future concerns, church concerns—then saying “No,” to teaching children could indicate that we do not understand the nature of the gospel.
Remember this: God became a child so that we could become children of God. At the very least, children are reminders of the kind of heart God creates in all of us. At the most, children are most like the kind of people God makes.
And those young people—those not-as-fast-to-pull-status people—are the kind of people that I don’t think I can teach with so much overtone as a humble coming-alongside effort.
With that in mind, the treasured-up portion becomes the only topic to share! So I must be done teaching children the facts without demonstrating a heart fully treasured-up with Jesus.
It is mean to teach a child to ‘be nice’ when she cannot, without fail, be nice. There must be a demonstration of One With Us who grew up to pay for her lack-of-niceness.
There must be demonstration of the One With Us who gives us His Spirit to empower love!
It is an evil scheme to command a child to ‘share with others’ without demonstrating that she is a recipient of what God has shared with her, on the cross of Jesus.
There must be demonstration of the One With Us who gives us His Spirit to empower giving!
I’m done teaching that children are to obey parents… without also showing that Jesus was the only one who obeyed His parents, and his Father (even to the cross!), and by doing so, was Someone who is to be treasured-up in their hearts.
The Christian does not think it optional to share the treasured-up with those around him, The Christian believes in the God With Us not God With Him or God With Her. The people around are part of God With Us.
Those who were paying attention long ago were taught the gospel by the Ancient of Days embodied in tween-size sandals.
Mary did not instruct Jesus, but was instructed by Him. She wiped the anxious sweat from her brow and held Jesus’ hand in relief, peace, and joy. He walked with her, and He walks with us. In fact, by faith, He carries us along.
The God who became a Child beckons us to join him in the exact same mission.
So, I’m done teaching children, and I’m ready to be taught by Jesus.
In a child-sized, red plastic chair.