I did not write the blog post below, and I already shared it on my personal blog last week. But I wanted to make sure it was seen by as many of my readers as possible. I could have just given a link to the devotion on the church website, but not everyone clicks on those links. Thus, I am doing the old cut and paste in hopes that more will take the time to read it.
The following was written by Mike Freeman, a staff pastor in charge of small groups and education at Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Boise, for our weekly devotionals. I happen to love the movie he refers to (Mr. Holland’s Opus), and I cry every single time I hear the lines he quotes in his opening paragraph. But I have never, ever thought of Jesus and His disciples as the possible cast of players in a different kind of school. This biblical application of long term education (as a parent, as a teacher, as a writer) pierced my heart and encouraged me to press on wherever God has called me to instruct or teach or write.
If you are a parent or a grandparent or a favorite aunt or uncle or a teacher or a writer or a friend or a neighbor … if you have any kind of influence over any number of people, be it one or a thousand … then you need to ponder this post.
Adult Gertrude Lang: Mr. Holland had a profound influence on my life and on a lot of lives I know. But I have a feeling that he considers a great part of his own life misspent. Rumor had it he was always working on this symphony of his. And this was going to make him famous, rich, probably both. But Mr. Holland isn’t rich and he isn’t famous, at least not outside of our little town. So it might be easy for him to think himself a failure. But he would be wrong, because I think that he’s achieved a success far beyond riches and fame. Look around you. There is not a life in this room that you have not touched, and each of us is a better person because of you. We are your symphony Mr. Holland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus. We are the music of your life. — Mr. Holland’s Opus
The fact that education is a “long game” by its very nature means that the “payoff,” the tangible results, the real difference made can be obscured. It’s been observed that the will of God is seldom known in prospect but usually only in retrospect. The same may be said about seeing the hands-on difference we have made. We do so much instilling and then the now present faces are gone, soon replaced by other, fresher faces as life continues its relentless rotation. So we instill, instill, instill. . .and then wonder if any of it is making a difference. If any of it has made a difference.
Jesus walked in circles for three years with his band of learners. What did he see in terms of difference? On his last night with them, there was no Gertrude Lang thanking him for the incredible difference he had made in his life. But there was a debate among his students as to which of them was the greatest. The student who, arguably, was the “teacher’s pet” conspired to betray him for a paltry sum. As he faced the greatest inner turmoil of his life, his students fell asleep. And when he was arrested every last one of them ran, and most of them didn’t stop for at least three days.
Not exactly a symphony.
I wonder how much the sage, who now reflects on those meaningful moments with an instructing father and a nurturing mother as they urged him to “sell everything and get wisdom and buy understanding,” was bored and annoyed when he so long ago sat with that wise mother or father.
Education is a long term, long game path.
Our “opus”, the symphony of our life is composed over a lifetime of meaningful encounters, of persistently offered presence, of repeated soakings. Which is why Paul offers his students such words of encouragement as these:
With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort. — I Corinthians 15.58 | MSG
Perhaps that’s what heaven will really be for us after the long game of life: it will be the moment when we finally, finally get to hear the symphony of our lives, hear those notes resonating together in harmony that have been scattered across the field of our existence. Perhaps faith is simply trusting that there is a symphony salvaged out of all this; a symphony that will be heard, made up of meaningful but mundane notes and chords stuck in the here and now.
If so, faith utters a very simple word in the ear of each of us: Play.
The devotional above affected me so much that I had to do some Bible art journaling on it, first in my Praise Book (“Any Life & Ministry That Matters”) and then again in my Interleaved Bible (Writing is a Long Game). The Interleaved Bible has a full blank page, both sides, between every page of text, so it gave me lots of room for my journaling. Plus in the latter, I printed the text of the devotional on a sheet of paper so I could adhere it into the Bible beside the 1 Corinthians passage. That way I will always have it.
I used photos of those Bible art journaling pages above. You can click on them to see larger versions.
HOW ABOUT A 30 DAY GRATITUDE CHALLENGE?
A couple of weeks ago, I joined a gratitude challenge. It is open ended, and I plan to stick to it for a while. But I thought it would be great if I could get some of our Inspired by Life and Fiction readers to join me. Counting today and Thanksgiving, we have 30 days until Thanksgiving Day (USA holiday).
My version of the gratitude journal is to write down three things each day that I’m thankful/grateful for in a planner. It can be something as simple as creamer in my coffee or the silly antics of my cat to how much I love and appreciate members of my family or really close friends. And everything in between. At left is last week’s gratitude entries in my planner (click to see larger version). I like to use color and to decorate, but you could use a black pen in a plain notebook. The idea is to simply write down those things you are thankful for.
Let me know in the comments if you plan to join me on this challenge. No posting is required. No one will look at your entries. But maybe you’ll feel like sharing a bit about the experience when I post again on the day before Thanksgiving.