A New Teacher

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To listen to today’s reflection as a podcast, click here
You are somebody’s disciple.
Somebody helped you reach the place where you are today.
Actually, you are the disciple of a great many somebodies.
There are some people, no doubt, from whom you consciously chose to learn.  Other people taught you key life lessons (both healthy and unhealthy) even while you hardly suspected what was happening.
My parents, for instance, taught me that it is more important to be honest than to come in first.  I don’t know exactly how they did this (they never led a family seminar called Integrity 101) but the message got through.
My dad also taught me that money is so scarce that I should almost never spend it or give it away, and that buying dessert at a restaurant is an option reserved for the insane.
My piano teacher taught me that when you merely pretend to practice you might fool your mom or your dad, and maybe even yourself, but you can never fool your piano teacher. 
I learned how to swing a baseball bat by watching my older brother Scott.  The problem is that Scott is naturally left-handed, while I throw from the right.  I should have become a right-handed hitter, but I wanted so badly to hit like Scott that I squared up in the batter’s box just like him.  The world therefore was left to wonder how many home runs I would have hit as a righty – compared to the grand total of zero that I hit from the left. 
My scoutmaster taught me how to light a fire on a rainy day with a single match, and how to pluck a chicken – skills I rarely use in ministry these days.
My middle school classmates taught me that a single anonymous note is able to make almost anybody break down and cry.
My college professors taught me that “God” is a failed hypothesis.  My wife, more than any other person, taught me that God can be trusted in everything. 
My campus Christian group leader, Charlie Green, taught me, “Leave every place better than you found it” – a value that has guided my life for 50 years now. 
My children taught me that investing in relationships is more important than attending church committee meetings, and that buying dessert in a restaurant from time to time is one of the coolest things anybody can do.
All of those somebodies had a role in teaching me how to live. 
Not every lesson is one that I prize. 
One of life’s transforming moments, in fact, is the instant we realize that we have the power to evaluate what we have learned – to pick through the folk wisdom and truisms and prejudices and principles that make up our rules for existing in this universe – and to ask ourselves if it might not be time to learn from a new teacher, to place ourselves deliberately at the feet of a new master.
We aren’t, in other words, helplessly imprisoned by who and what we have already become. 
We can start life over again.
Which is why Jesus’ invitation to “come, follow me,” is such a word of hope.