Last year, I penned an article entitled “Tips for being a Successful Student.” Here, let’s examine what is THE school supply every Southwestern student MUST have.
I have always loved the start of a new school year. The excitement and expectation of learning new things, the joy of moving “up a grade,” and the new school supplies … ah, those wonderful new school supplies. Backpack; lunch box (yes, the old-school metal ones with cool graphics); notebooks and folders; protractors, compasses, and rulers; pens, pencils (maybe even upgrade to a mechanical pencil!), and erasers; and yes, the all-time favorite, the new box of crayons. I remember when I graduated from 8-count to 16-count to 24-count and, finally, to the holy grail of 64-count! The myriad of colors in the 64-count box and the hope of endless hours of creativity was more than I could stand. The new school year always meant new crayons, and it still does as my wife and I purchase new crayons for our four children. Really, they are for my children and not me … maybe.
As Southwestern begins a new academic year, students are assembling their school supplies. Crayons are fun and useful for relieving stress, but they are not the school supply every student must have. Assigned books and Bible software are required; paper, pens, and highlighters are needful; and an interlinear Greek-Hebrew-English Bible and books on biblical syntax and parts of speech are helpful. Yet, these are not the primary school supply one must have. No, the one supply each student must have is a teachable spirit.
I observe so many students begin the academic year with a preconceived notion of what they will get out of a course, how fast they will go through classes in order to graduate quickly, or enter feeling entitled to A’s for just showing up with a pulse. They don’t take notes in class, don’t take advantage of being mentored by faculty members, don’t participate in campus student life, and take “safe” classes that don’t challenge their existing presuppositions, practices, and prejudices. This is not why students are at Southwestern; rather, students are called to be equipped. Southwestern is a hot crucible where God refines people as they are being equipped for a lifetime of ministry. This cannot happen if one does not possess a teachable spirit.
The book of Proverbs warns against an unteachable spirit:
A fool does not delight in understanding,
But only in revealing his own mind.
…“How I have hated instruction!
And my heart spurned reproof!
I have not listened to the voice of my teachers,
Nor inclined my ear to my instructors!”
Proverbs 15:32 and 19:20 attest that a teachable spirit is a nonnegotiable requirement for wisdom. You must be willing to be pliable,* permitting God to mold and shape you—to equip you. You must be willing to surrender presuppositions and prejudices and, yes, even traditions. Like Jacob, you must be willing to wrestle with God, or like Paul, to let God take your life plans and completely change them. King David was teachable and King Saul was not—the hand of God was on one man, but from the other, His hand was removed. The faculty of Southwestern are God-called men and women who desire to exhaustively pour into students the riches of God’s Word and their own spiritual journeys so as to optimally equip students to be sent out. This can only be accomplished if students possess a teachable spirit.
You see, YOU are the new box of crayons at the beginning of the school year. Your box is full of a myriad of experiences, presuppositions, spiritual gifts, and talents. What will you let God draw, color, and create with you this year? Are you willing to let Him have access to your box—to dull, take the wrapper off, or even break your favorite crayons—and create a new masterpiece?
As you pray for the new academic year, pray Psalm 119:33-36 over yourself:
Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes,
And I shall observe it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law
And keep it with all my heart.
Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,
For I delight in it.
Incline my heart to Your testimonies
And not to dishonest gain.
*Pliable is different from flexible. Flexibility means your state is altered and then you return to your original state. Pliability means your state is altered and then you remain in the new altered state. We want to be pliable to God.