Three professors. Three approaches.
One professor is focused on details of format. He looks for mistakes in punctuation and subtracts points for margins not being set to the standard he wants though the college requires another. It keeps me from perfection. He seems to wield his red pen with joy.
A second professor requires rote memorization. It is important to him that I am able to demonstrate that I have ingested the writings of various authors. He wants detailed footnotes and requires very little original thought. It is actually easy to attain perfection in his class. All I need do is recite the answers he seeks. Some students don’t like his approach at all. I suspect it’s because they do not want to do the work required.
A third professor likes to have his students wrestle with concepts. His style encourages independent thought and personal discovery. He likes healthy debate and even goes to the point of making personal contacts. His grading style rewards conclusions, transparency and learning. His style compels me to go beyond the course syllabus and think about the concepts we discuss. My most significant challenge in his class is to limit my writings. I want to go deeper.
The first teacher frustrates me and makes me dread completing assignments. The second spoon-feeds me good information and gives me knowledge that will be helpful. The third shapes me and prepares me to apply knowledge. I make the A grade for each but the third has me seeing performance as a secondary issue at best. He ignites me. He is, in my estimation, a rabbi.
“Let your house be a gathering place for sages. And wallow in the dust of their feet. And drink in their words with gusto.”
Popular speaker/teacher Rob Bell says that a common well-wishing for someone in Jesus’ day was to say, “May you be covered in the dust of your rabbi.” While some debate if Bell is accurate, it is clear to me that there is historic validity for some dust-covering whether following or sitting at the feet of the teacher.
My third professor is a man I want to be around. I would like to hang with him, share time with him and talk with him in his car on a trip to the mall. I look forward to his contacts. When he recommends a book or podcast, I immediately set out to find it. If it were a dusty time I could see myself getting a good dose of his dust on my clothes.
The core of our interaction is predictable to anyone who knows how Jesus works. He has built a relationship with me. Beyond the education is a sense of care and concern. His words are supported by his actions. I would have no hesitation calling him about any issue I face whereas I would approach the other two only during business hours and only within the scopes of their courses.
It has been said that people will never care how much you know until they know how much you care. That is true of me.
I want to be like my professor-friend as I teach, as I pastor and as I lead. I want to reflect the heart of Christ which lets people know they are safe with me regardless of their questions or how much or little they know.
I want to be covered by the dust of my rabbi, the dust of Jesus Christ, and I pray that those in my ministries will find me to be a rabbi whose dust they desire.
Lord, make me such a man.