Enthusiasm and education

It’s been a long time since I wrote about my son.  Although this piece will concern more than him, watching him during the last few days has been the impulse behind what I’m about to say.

One of our church’s shepherds has pegged Jedd as “enthusiastic.”  I can’t stop thinking about that.  He really is enthusiastic.  (Sometimes, it’s annoying.  jcg0713But mostly, in our better moments, it’s inspiring and catchy.)  I wish I were more like that more often.  It’s so pure, so beautiful to see him enthused about everything in his life.  A stuffed bison, a craft activity, learning which days of the week he goes to preschool and which he goes to Bible class, where Russia is on the map, why cars need oil … and the list could go on.  This very morning — Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014 — he didn’t know what day it was and was assuming I was going to work soon.  When I reminded him it was Sunday, I could sense his pulse quicken right away.  “Yessss!  I get to go to church and Bible class and see Emma.”  He’s definitely enthused by his friends, too.  This pic is with Joy, whom he hasn’t seen in months, and he feels the same about his newer friends.

Here, I’ll add my name to the list of millions who love their children’s enthusiasm when they return home.  There’s nothing quite like seeing my son’s smiling face when I return.  He loves to see me, despite myself.  He waves.  And it’s not a perfunctory wave.  No, he just keeps waving.  He really is glad to see me, and that makes me glad to see him.

Jedd learningWednesday after Bible class, a couple of the older men ended up sitting with Jedd at a table in the lobby.  It was a few minutes before I realized one of them, a retired educator, was teaching my son.  In a few energzied minutes, Jedd’s reading ability jumped a couple of levels.  This occurred because of factors on both sides:

      •   1.  Jedd’s interest and enthusiasm
      •   2.  The educator’s knowledge of the subject and a proven methodology of teaching reading

Ironically, the class I had been a part of for the prior hour was not exactly ground for learning.  It was a bastion of premillennial presuppositions foisted on some unsuspecting (and some suspecting) folks.  Yes, learning occurred, but not as much as with Jedd.  In the adult class, I know that my own heels, and at least one other pair, got a lot of clay-muck on them from all the “digging in” and resisting of one another.

At one point, with reference to Romans 11:25, I made the comment that the NIV has it wrong.  (The NLT does, too, and the latter often strikes me as a particularly careless translation.)  Anyway, rather than “… when the full number of the Gentiles comes in,” the Greek word pleroma rarely seems to imply a specific quantity.  It is often translated “fullness,” and reading a magic number of non-Jews into Romans 11:25 was doing a disservice to the text, as well as tacitly playing into numerology and literal readings of prophetic language such as the “144,000” of Revelation.

That’s when the first heel was plunged beneath the soil of the learning environment.  I hadn’t even used the word “Greek.”  (I’m rather sensitive to the possible perception that I might be showing off the little Greek knowledge I have.)  The teacher’s reaction was basically that the NIV says “full number.”  “But that’s not right,” I countered.  “The word ‘number’ is not there.”  More digging.  My heels and his.  Maybe a few others. . . .

A few minutes later, we had let the tension evaporate, but I’m not hopeful that anyone had really learned anything.  No premillennial ideas had sunk in more with me.  No Zionist Christian was newly considering that Jews may have no place in God’s current plans.  No one who tends to think literally about symbolic numbers had a lightbulb moment.

We — me included — were more interested in defending  than in learning.  Nevermind for a moment that I was right about the minor Greek thing.  There’s still a chance that I’m wrong in my understanding of Jewish history and prophecy.  After a bit of inner struggle, some 20 or 30 minutes later, I whined a mildly humble preface and query.  It went something like this:  “I can be open to the possibility that Ezekiel’s prophecy might have something to do with something that hasn’t happened yet, but can we agree that it doesn’t have  to be read that way?”

I want to be a person who learns often and loves it.  I want to be around others who love learning, too.  But when the atmosphere seems to stifle growth and learning rather than encouraging it, I tend to lose the enthusiasm I have.  In those times, I probably need to be around my son more.

♦  What is it that makes children excited about learning and living, although it’s not the same for most adults?

♦  Does anyone else suspect that the answer to the above question might pertain to why Jesus might have had several disciples that were pre-teens when he first called them?  And might it also pertain to why He said “let the little children come to me”?

jgc021514
Jedd at 4.75 years
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