Teachers, Mentors, and Fire
by Chris Roe on September 23rd, 2013

"Focus on what your child is passionate about. When you ignite the fire in them – let it burn."--Brenda K. Rufener  


I once heard John Eldredge say something like this (paraphrase) "A parents job is to uncover, build up, fan into flame the glory of each child, and then unleash it on the world."  

Rufener also quotes Socrates (in same article) as saying,
------"Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel."  

I love that!  And, not just because we have (for this season) chosen to homeschool our son.

I think back on teachers and mentors in my life.  Mary Lindsay, Sally Palmer, Lane Lewis, Tom Moore, Mike Hollis, Jim McDoniel, Mark Berryman, Jim Bob Baker, Dale Layton, Barry Strickland (to name a few) and they all invited me into something deeper than just information.  They enacted something in my mind, my heart, and my soul.  Awakened me to something beyond just facts. Some even offered opportunities for on-the-job "training".  

It takes little care or talent just to pass on the declarations, dimensions, descriptions of a thing or a thought.  It takes something more to ignite the deep fires that can burn for a lifetime and beyond.  

My father invited me into things like Amateur Radio, Golf, Basketball, Computers, and Photography.  Some of those things stuck, some didn't  but each one was an invitation into more than just knowledge.
My mother lead me into adventures: New foods, new thoughts, open spaces to share heart-level rumblings and grumblings, even to sit in on a group counseling session she was leading for homeless recovering addicts.  She encouraged me to learn as many skills as I could at any "job" I took.  

The impact of these people has lasted over the decades of my life.  Every day of my life contains imprints from their influence.  I don't know if I can repeat one single "fact" they taught me.  But the invited me to learn, take risks, be passionate, ask questions, "Look it up." (Mary Lindsay), and search it out for myself. And several are still in my life helping me interpret the results.

In our educational systems I think we are missing what these people did, and still do.  In many schools and most churches we "teach" by passing on right thinking or answers.  We often fail to invite people into a process, into a journey that leads them deeper.  An adventure that serves them well, even after we are no longer physically present in their lives.  We can teach that 2 + 2 = 4 or the correct doctrinal position on atonement, but we don't give them a fire that lasts.

Why am I writing about this?  Brenda's quote just struck a chord with me and I felt compelled.  I want to thank these people, and countless others who've done this for me.  I want to be the kind of person that does this in others.  I want to play a vital role in creating the space needed for this kind of thinking/experience (especially about God.)  And, I think there is a lot in this world set against it coming to fruition.  Understandably, I spend a good deal of my time frustrated.  

I want my kids to have those kinds of people too.  I want their environments to encourage them to learn information in the context of relationships that develop hunger for more, as much as, if not more than, give answers.  
I am writing because I want things to be different than I think they most often are.  I am writing because I want to to be a part of that change.  I am writing because these people fanned into flame and tended a fire in me that was birthed by God and it's not yet burned out.

Chris Roe is the Executive Director of Encounter Ministries, a dedicated husband and father, a ragamuffin follower of Jesus, and a terrible golfer.

Disclaimer:  Chris Roe is not a licensed counselor, a divinity school graduate, a marriage or education guru. He believes what he says/writes today, but that's always subject to correction and growth.

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Mary Lindsay - September 23rd, 2013 at 3:58 PM
Once again, Chris, you bring tears to my eyes as a teacher rarely knows what influence they have over the longevity of a students' lifetime. Thank you for sharing these words and sentiments. You know that I have included some of these things in my sons' "What you need to know when I go" list and I want them shared when they have a celebration party watching the Perseades (sp?) meterorite showers on the birthday following my demise.This is not to be morbid, but you know,too, that I plan ahead. Lovingly, Mary Lindsay
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