To Our Teachers
by Tank Tankersley
I remember it as if it were yesterday. I’m certain that I can locate the room at Sherwood Junior High where the revelation occurred, and perhaps the precise location of the desk in which I sat. It was in my seventh grade music class. Miss Nashua announced that we would listen to classical music. And the class groaned! I may have been amongst the groaners. If so, I recant of that. For when she placed that needle on the record and the strains to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker filled the room my life changed for the better. My first reaction was, “Wow!” My second followed fast upon the first: “How come nobody ever told me about this?” Someone would have sooner or later, I suppose, but Miss Nashua did it. She gets the credit. And I am grateful. And then there was Miss Britton, who taught me that the end of a line of poetry is of no consequence if not followed by punctuation. Reading to the punctuation is the way to do it. And coach Irvine, who taught me how to make the pivot as second without getting creamed by the runner coming from first.
Oh, additional information would subsequently be imparted. In my business courses there was some stuff about debits and credits, and stocks and bonds, and such, and in law school they went on and on about contracts, and property, and torts, and the like. But it was those big three that really mattered – music, poetry, and baseball. Those three alone will suffice to make a man happy, if he has his wits about him.
But, alas, happy in only a most superficial sense. We long for something deeper, something that not even Shakespeare, and Beethoven, and the World Series can provide. We long for the assurance that we, the created, are in tune with what the creator desires for us and that we’ll stay in tune, not for a day, or a year, or even a lifetime, but for all eternity. That assurance trumps all Ph.D. programs born and unborn. Where are they who can teach us how to claim that?
God has provided. He has blessed us with you, our teachers. So early on you taught us that God is love, a simple spiritual truth, but a profound one. Later you would take us from milk to meat. You would teach us how to discern God’s will for our lives, and how to yield to it. You would stress the importance of resisting the myriad temptations that Satan would throw at us, but hasten to assure us that God would forgive when our feet turned to clay. You would teach of to thank God for our many, many blessings, but to know, in times of sorrow, that “His grace is sufficient.” You would encourage us to look at others, as best we are able, through God’s eyes, not the world’s. You would help us in our clumsy efforts to tell others of Jesus. And you would teach us that as wonderful as this world is, something far better awaits. and because of all you taught us we would come to grasp, albeit most imperfectly, some of what He did when God made us in His image and to understand, if only vaguely, how much God must have loved us to send His son to die to bring us back to Him. “Thanks” seems such paltry recompense for all that you have taught us. There is only one way to repay. We can teach others as you have taught us. That, we know, would please you.
All too often we take you for granted. I suppose that we imagine that you just “show up” on Sunday, and on Wednesdays, and at other times. If we’d think about it we’d know better. We’d know that you read, and pray, and prepare in so many different ways to help us to learn what God would have us know, and think, and say, and do. We’d know that to find the time to do all this you sometimes sacrifice doing some things that you’d like to do.
Oh, we thank you from time to time, usually quite perfunctorily, I hereby thank you officially, but acknowledge most readily that it’s not nearly enough.
We thank God, too, for filling your hearts with the desire to tell us of Him. You’re in the best possible company. When God moved to reclaim us after we’d rejected Him. He chose to enter history as a teacher. Throughout the New Testamaent we read that “Jesus taught.” And how He taught! Like no one else, before or since. He was, and is, so much more than a teacher, of course. And what he was, and is, is what the world most needs to hear. And how can it hear without his teachers? Don’t ever, ever imagine that what you do is “no big deal.” Ultimately, it is the biggest deal of all.
(reprint, November, 2001)