When she was in her 80s, my mother bought some balls of yarn and started crocheting six-inch squares. She intended to sew them together into a large afghan, but she never finished the project. After Mother died last year, my daughter Michelle took her leftover yarn and started crocheting and sewing to carry on the work. It gives me joy when I see my daughter completing a project her grandmother began years ago.
Jesus envisioned a generational hand-off when he told his disciples, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). The Master Teacher had no classroom, desk, gradebook, or red pen, but he was an unparalleled educator. Jesus used witty stories and penetrating questions to equip and empower his disciples, so when it was time for him to return to Heaven, they were ready to carry on the work. Paul told Timothy to entrust the lessons he had learned “to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2).
When I count my blessings, the list includes the teachers God has placed in my life. In the first grade, Mrs. Tolle introduced me to God’s creation by bringing tadpoles into the classroom so my classmates and I could watch them grow into frogs. Our music teacher, Mrs. Fieke, taught us to appreciate different musical styles. (Her first name was Patience, and the way my friends and I behaved, she needed a lot of it.) I was a pain in the neck in the eighth grade, but my English teacher, Mrs. Miller, pushed past my resistance, insisting that her students diagram sentences down to the last preposition. Through this thankless process, she instilled in me an appreciation for language that blossomed into a love for writing when I became an adult.
Outside the classroom, I have gleaned countless lessons from parents, grandparents, coaches, elders, friends, business advisors, and board members who motivated me to pursue excellence while giving me grace when I made mistakes. Today I continue to learn by listening to my wife, children, and grandchildren; by rubbing shoulders with neighbors whose worldviews differ from mine; and by interacting with young adults who are willing to cross the generational divide.
In Bible college and seminary, I studied with caring teachers like Chuck Lee, whose apologetics course fed my hungry mind, and Clint Gill, whose classes on the life of Christ and the book of Acts deepened my determination to serve Jesus. Joe Ellis lit a fire in my heart for ministry. Wilke Winter opened my eyes to the characters and wisdom of the Old Testament. Lewis Foster made the New Testament come alive by combining in-depth scholarship with down-to-earth stories. Jack Cottrell deepened my appreciation for God’s grace, and Archibald Hart taught me the importance of emotional intelligence. I learned how to preach mainly just by doing it week after week, but I also benefited by observing faithful, skillful preachers like Bob Shannon, Bob Stacy, Jim Walker, Charles Faust, and Bob Russell.
A bumper sticker says, “If you can read this, thank a teacher.” Another good piece of advice? “If you know Christ, thank the people who taught you about him.” But the greatest compliment to those who went before us might be this: Keep working on the afghan they began to sew.
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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