The Sabbath is drawing near and we are cleaning and decorating for guests. I hope as you exhale the pressures of your workweek and inhale the sweetness of Shabbat that all the stress and anxiety goes out with the stale air. Spread your tablecloth, put out your candles, set the wineglasses and bake the challah bread. Sabbath is in the air.
This Sabbath, I am thinking of a great promise in Isaiah:
All your children shall be taught by the Lord. Isaiah 54:13.
We often think of God as our Father. Less often we think of him as our Bridegroom (and we the bride). We rarely regard him as our teacher.
Jamal was an African-American young man in the Bronx. He was good at basketball and, on top of that, he scored remarkably well on a standardized test. Suddenly, this young man from a low-income family in a neglected neighborhood was given a scholarship to a prep school for well-to-do and elite students.
Still Jamal was only raw talent, undeveloped potential. Maybe the school really only expected him to help them with their basketball program. But anger over social and racial issues were preventing Jamal from exploring his real potential.
Jamal was capable of creating beautiful things. He would possibly have wasted that talent had he not met Forrester, played by Sean Connery, in the 2000 movie, Finding Forrester. Forrester was a recluse, a great writer in the past, but now hurt and angry and alone. Forrester and Jamal develop a mentoring relationship, because Jamal knows Forrester has the ability to make his gift for writing evolve and mature. There is more to the story, also the needs in Forrester’s life that Jamal is meeting, but it is the teacher-student relationship that first captures the minds of the audience.
We live in a neglected neighborhood in a kind of poverty more real than the mean streets of the Bronx. We too were made for so much more potential than we realize. Our capacity to create and make beauty will not develop without a teacher, a mentor to lift us up from where we wither and fade.
I’ve watched several movies about gifted teachers coming into classrooms of students given up as hopeless, worthless and a nuisance to the system. Like the other millions who watch these movies, I find myself emotional when a teacher helps a student find success. The teacher and the student are one of the universal themes of life.
There is always a reason for the universal themes of life. They are not random. I gave up believing in a random, meaningless universe years ago at an engineering university when I found out science doesn’t know everything.
Do you feel already as though God has been your teacher, lifting you up from a low place? Do you sense his hand reaching down to pick you up, to coach you, and to say, “You are capable of so much more”?
He is a good and patient teacher. Throughout history, when we, his students, have failed to learn and develop, he has continued, always ready to teach if we will listen.
Yeshua came in the same flesh we bear to show us the teacher-student relationship in a new way. He called disciples and said, “Follow me.” When he left, and left us with words, such words, words that this world needs like water and air, he promised another teacher to come, the Spirit of God.
In his book The Great Omission, Dallas Willard asks if we believe God is our teacher? Who is Yeshua to us, a mere icon, he asks. Is he real? Can he teach?
This Sabbath, consider what it means to be a disciple of Yeshua. What are you learning and how? What lesson has he taught you recently and how did you make out on the test? Are you growing in your capacity for beauty and truth or are you withering and fading?
If Yeshua is our teacher, and we his disciples, then we should be able to ask, often and with expectation, “What would you show me, Master? I will follow.”