In the book of Exodus, YHWH gives His name: I am that I am (alternatively “I will be what I will be”. Exodus 3:14) He points to His auto-existence. He defines Himself by His being. In the Gospel of John, Jesus also offers many “I am” statements: I am the Living Bread (6:51), I am the Light of the World (8:12), I am the True Vine (15:1). Surely, our God’s definition of Himself points to an order of being first. The doing comes from that being.
We do not become worthy or beloved by doing. This truth should cause us to walk differently through life than our societies would have us. This self-identity of being points us towards rest, towards assurance in Him and in our creation in His likeness. He gave us the Sabbath to be still. He gave us community to be embraced. He gave us creation to be surrounded. To receive these free gifts, he didn’t require that we be the best or healthiest or most diligent. We are simply invited to enjoy the being.
Most education systems are based on a backward notion that we are worthy because of what we are capable of doing. We exist to do. We exist to think, create, improve, succeed. We DO create and interact and think and work and all matter of beautiful actions. But when we educate, we must educate a whole person who’s intrinsic worth comes from their being.
At an AMO training last summer, one of our wonderful trainers posed this question: which student was the educational success–the mediocre student who held on long enough to graduate high school and then became a plumber, or the sharp, charismatic one who founded a successful series of bakeries in the city? A room full of teachers asked the right question: “What were the students like as people?” The trainer explained that the plumber was known for always charging a fair rate and being on time. He was active in his neighborhood association and church. The entrepreneur was a responsible father and outspoken on many social issues. One teacher said, “Both! Both are successes. As teachers, we are part of the process of training a child for life. We care about what kind of person they are.”
As educators, we value the being. Amen.