It’s been a while since I’ve written, because, contradictorily, there hasn’t been much to write about and I’ve been really busy. July through the first half of September I mainly spent working on lecture preparations, with a week off for moving into my new apartment in the first week of August and a few excursions.*
One thing I never thought about before was how much lecture preparation is necessary. Since this is my first time teaching these classes (Introduction to Theology and Christology/Soteriology), I have to start from the beginning and write lectures for 12 weeks of 3-hour classes. After reading textbooks for most of June and July and writing lectures for most of August and September, I have about 8 weeks of each class prepared—and I’m already done teaching the second week! And as soon as I’m done writing those, I have to start on next semester’s lectures. As I knew it would, my being a tourist has reduced quite a bit in favor of my being a teacher.
I have to say, it’s a rather magnificent job to have, getting to read and analyze theology books and write a couple hundred pages on theological subjects, with the goal of teaching them to people who may be complete neophytes to theology. But sometimes I have to force myself to do it and to focus on doing it. I could use your prayers for focus specifically.
The best part, after my two whole weeks of experience, is definitely the teaching. I rather adore it. When I was itinerating, I loved the part where I got to get up and tell people all about what God was doing in my life and calling and European missions. That love has transferred to the process of teaching, which is really quite similar. I stand in front of people and tell them wonderful things about God.
After my second day, as I was biking home from school, I realized to myself that the act of teaching doesn’t feel like a job, even a job that I enjoy (I loved library cataloging, but it was still a job). It feels like doing something I love. It causes the same emotional sensations in me that doing things I do just because I love them does, such as reading or bicycling or taking interesting photographs. It might perhaps be almost like the feeling I get when I write fiction (though nothing is quite like that in the world). And to think that once upon a time I declared to myself my intention of never becoming a teacher (that was a very long time ago).
I have two classes of a dozen students each (large class sizes, for CTS), and each one has a couple of Americans, a couple of Nigerians, a couple of Belgians, a couple of Dutch, and one English student (each), with the odd Italian and Pakistani and Ghanian thrown in for good measure. Most are college age, but a couple are a little older and have already been in full-time ministry. Some of them have amazingly good brains. Some of them know absolutely nothing and ask the most interesting (and difficult) questions (“Is God still faithful to Israel?” “If God is King of Kings, how is Jesus King of Kings?” “If there is natural revelation, what about people who see the existence of God through nature but never hear the gospel?”).
One of the classes told me they would never have imagined I hadn’t already been teaching for ages. I think this is because, for one, I’ve spent my whole life contemplating the topics I am teaching on (when I was about 9 years old, for instance, I would probably have told you that Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection for our benefit were only logical, given the nature of God—though not necessarily in those words); and for another, I’ve just spent two years doing public speaking almost every single week, which has helped me feel comfortable and natural being in front of people and speaking to them. Thank you, two years of itineration!
And, yes, I have cried in three out of four class periods. Once was when I was talking about the importance of John the Baptist to the life of Christ and read Isaiah 40, where Matthew and Mark get their prophecies which John fulfilled. (Go read it. Go, right now. And think about John the Baptist declaring this about Jesus before His baptism.) The second time was when I was talking about Jesus’ servanthood as revealed in the Last Supper and read Isaiah 53. (Go….you get the point.) The third time was today, in my Intro to Theology class, where I’ve been talking about the attributes of God (holiness, love, justice, and so forth), and in my section about faithfulness I told them about my own experience of God’s faithfulness. I don’t think I could not cry while discussing such wonderful subjects. But I warned them all ahead of time that it was entirely likely I would. And who knows, maybe now whenever they read the beginning of Mark and read about John the Baptist, they will remember about Isaiah 40 and remember that it is so lovely that their theology teacher cried about it in class. (I don’t think I’ve ever had a theology teacher cry in class, which makes me wonder what’s wrong with them.)
Most of my students have been mostly paying attention, which is perhaps as much as a teacher can ask for. (And of course those who don’t seem like they’re paying attention very well might be.) There’s often discussion and questions asked, and a couple of times students have kept talking about things we talked about in class as they put their things together and leave, which means they’re interested. Quite delicious, I must say.
I can’t wait to teach again on Monday.