“Great ambition and conquest without contribution is without significance. What will your contribution be? How will history remember you?”
-Mr. Hundert, The Emperor’s Club (2002)
Today I have been working on my “Passionate Creed”, described more in detail as a personal philosophy of teaching. BTI’s distinct flavour is that our lecturers and our course invite us to discover who we are, because, as Parker J. Palmer (1997) writes, “Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.” Therefore, from the beginning of this year we have been taken on a journey to discover our individual identity and integrity. What makes me unique as a teacher? Who am I as a teacher? What is my role, what is the role of a learner in my classroom?
This all boils down to my assignment that is due tomorrow, that is not yet finished (as that normally happens, oh dear). What so surprises me, however, is as I have been writing, things that have been so blurring have all of a sudden been so clarified, as if I have been looking at a foggy mirror my whole year only to discover I could wipe it off. Or more specifically, the Holy Spirit. For God has walked with me through this journey more than anyone else. He knows me intimately. So who else could I trust with my heart and soul?
You as a reader wouldn’t be surprised to find out what’s in my passionate creed at the moment. Issues of identity, cultural belonging, and relationship with Jesus. And of course, the theme of this blog, but more the battle cry of my life, To love at all is to be vulnerable. How can we forget that? God Himself said this on the subject:
God giving me a heart of flesh was not so I could get hurt, but so that I could receive His love more wholly and fully. That’s why we live, isn’t it? Mr. Hundert’s quote in the movie “The Emperor’s Club” reveals his own passionate creed. He did not want to make men who had great ambition and progress, but instead, develop men with character, who wanted to contribute rather than conquer. How different did his students see Roman history when his teaching flowed out of his personal mantra! How they were changed!
As Palmer also wrote (yes I’ve been reading and re-reading his Heart of a Teacher) “In this culture, the self is not a source to be tapped but a danger to be suppressed, not a potential to be fulfilled but an obstacle to be overcome.” How this got me! So long have I suppressed my writing style or specific testimony of vulnerability just because I “wanted to appeal to others”. Hah. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past two years, it’s that we impact people by showing them ourselves. Yes, you show the muck and the gunk and pain and suffering. But you also see the beauty. For you cannot truly know me without knowing all that, and you cannot love me without knowing me, right? Same with our students. So I have to be an example. Imagine if the teacher in the movie decided his identity was too dangerous. No students would have ever realised that their contribution is more important than their conquest. That was his specific testimony. What about yours?
So, amongst all of this, I’d like to encourage you to start delving into those deeper issues of your own life. Get out a mirror and start staring. Not just to find the issues, but to find out who you are. Well, I stop there. Don’t stare at yourself. Stare at Jesus. He holds your identity, more than you know, and also wrote in a Book, too. The righteousness of Christ. The Bride of Christ. Lily among thorns. Beauty among ashes. Okay? the list goes on. But we need to find out what our specific one is to focus on. Mine is to sit at the feet of Jesus and feel His heart. I mean, it’s all of ours, but for now, that’s me. And like Galadriel said to Frodo in The Lord of the Rings… if I don’t find a way, no one will. God can raise up people with a similar voice as me, but He only made one me. I cannot waste time running away from myself. Because it’s only in relationships that we find out who we are, and are forced to face the real issues of our life.
Come into relationship with Him. Set your alarm an extra five minutes earlier and just stop and listen to Him. Well, I’d advise a lot longer but please, please understand that building the habit of listening to Him is a whole lot more important than the length of time you spend each day. That’s my call, at least. Come on. Let’s go.
What will your contribution be? I know mine now.
Photo credit: here