(This has been edited for grammar, eliminating redundancies, and clarification of certain ideas – that being said, I’m still not satisfied with this, I think I can do a better job and will likely further add content to clarify and create depth)
As I prepare to begin a small group here in Korea and finally get back into the saddle of ministry on a more long-term basis, I’ve found myself doing a lot of reading, reflecting, and writing. Hopefully this has helped enable me to articulate why I actively pursue opportunities to teach and why I want to do so for the rest of my life. This is something I want to tell my small group, but this is also something I’ve found myself wanting to tell a lot of people that I’ve encountered along the way: the confused supporters, the naysayers, the confusingly overwhelming champions of my “cause,” and many others. I add this last part because for as much love and support as I have received, a lot of it seems to be based on incorrect or incomplete ideas of what I am aiming to do, why I want to do it, and what ideals I’m actually upholding (academic integrity and critical thinking don’t always uphold an Evangelical Christian worldview).
Knowledge can empower. I have lived my entire life seeing people being hurt by the things they did not know and watching people hurt others because of things they did not know. I have been both a giver and a receiver in the ignorance just described. Knowledge, when used correctly (and how to use knowledge well is yet another thing to teach), can pull people out of hardship and enable us to change the broken systems around us. When it comes to finding a voice for the voiceless, as much as I like the idea of being the voice for them, I find it better to teach them to find and be a voice of their own. Knowledge can do that.
I want to be a champion of the truth and the openness and variety of the world. For a long time I had been allowed a view of a Christianity and a Jesus that only thought in the same ways that my teachers and I did. I had been given an existential box, and as anyone who was around me my senior year of high school can attest, I was wildly swinging between fighting as hard as I could against anything that threatened my box and accepting and working with the concept that it was ok to be wrong (epistemic [what I do and do not know] humility was not my strong suit, and there are some days where it still isn’t). If I had wound up going to any public or secular private institution for my bachelor’s degree, the chances are that I probably would not be a Christian today… or at least I hope that would have been the case because the alternative would have been that I welded my existential box shut from all external input and in my opinion that would be a fate far worse than its opposite. Instead, I went to a Christian institution that blew my box and my world into a million pieces. I was taught the vastness of Christian faith and life and belief… and the vastness of the world. For having lived in another country around other people who believed so differently than me, I was still very narrow-minded and thoroughly convinced that everyone else was wrong. When finally brought to a different perspective, I became frustrated that I had been allowed my previous perspective for so long when there had been so many opportunities to prevent it from forming or to correct it. For a variety of reasons I had been allowed to continue in my ignorance, part of that being that youth ministry is a really difficult job and you don’t always have the time and availability to overhaul a student’s broken perspective. I want to help people to better believe what they believe and to better practice what they practice. I want them to know the options available to them, even if those options go against what I personally believe is good and helpful. I want them to know that we won’t always know everything, and that we make some pretty big mistakes sometimes. I want them to know that God is so much bigger than the categories we try to use to comprehend Him, and that can make things messy sometimes. I want them to know that they are loved and why.
I want to be a source of love and comfort and right relationship. The three highest priorities I have been given are right relationship between humanity and God, right relationship between humanity and itself (so for individuals a right relationship with themselves and a right relationship with others), and right relationship with the rest of Creation. Right relationship means not just the absence of conflict but the presence of love and care. So often I have seen and felt the many sources of pain present in day to day life, and I want to help redeem that and I want to help people to know that they are never alone and that they are loved and cared for, not just by God, but by the people around them. I want to create a place where it is safe for people to be vulnerable and not always right or ok and open to moving toward something better, and I believe a small group is a place to do that. Teaching isn’t all about bigger, broader, and better data sets. It is also about leading, living, and learning by example and by being part of a deep and trusting relationship with those you are alongside.
Finally, becoming a teacher is the best thing I could do with my talents. In my mind I have plotted the overthrow of governments and the upheaval of political systems, and raised up a hundred governments that stood for justice and the value of its citizens in place of those overthrown governments. I have mentally designed the downfall of dictators and corrupt politicians and lobbying groups and corporations. These are all things that I believe myself perfectly capable of doing, but they would require me to break all of the values that I hold dear and become the worst of all examples, mimicking the God I believed in as a child when saying, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Instead of tearing down and destroying and attempting to recreate in my flawed image, I want to build up something worthwhile that helps bring life and love into the world. Teaching and mentoring and befriending is how I believe I can do that. If I can do one thing, it is to foster right relationship between humanity and God, humanity and itself, and humanity with the rest of creation.
Thanks for reading, grace and peace unto y’all,