“Stay in your lane.” It’s a sign that you’ve surely seen as you drive along the road—perhaps along a dangerous curve or amid heavy summer construction. Likely, you’ve encountered this sign much more frequently along the road of life.
We live in a culture that constantly reminds us to stay in our own lanes. Each of us has our own areas of expertise, and to venture outside of those lanes can invite reactions from bemusement to outrage. Labels bestow expertise on a limited few and thus silence intelligent human beings who are driving along the same road; conventional wisdom pushes for a lane change, but we give into that yellow, diamond-shaped sign that surely an expert mounted on the side of the road. Four out of five dentists must be correct about chewing gum; epidemiologists can never be wrong; only a certified plumber can fix the drain. And let’s face it: teachers are the experts in classrooms who chafe when parents question our methods.
No Classroom Gridlocks
It’s rather ironic. We insist that our students master a plethora of academic subjects only to launch them into a world that grimaces if they venture into areas not listed on their college diplomas. I found myself doing that recently as I looked through a number of resumés for a teaching position in my department. “How on earth can she have experience teaching AP English and AP Biology?” I questioned. “There’s no way someone that young could have experience coaching that many sports,” I frowned. “Man, this person needs to stay in his own lane.” Of course, this all came from an ordained pastor who has been a high school teacher for the past two decades and now holds the title of English department head. “Black is a delightful color on you,” said the kettle to the pot.
I was looking at those resumés all wrong—and I knew better! We Christians have an amazing tradition of bucking trends and changing lanes with little notice. Consider David. The young shepherd boy became a military hero in a single day and later the greatest king of Israel. St. Peter, a fisherman-turned-religious-scholar, reminds us of the lane-changing reality of being called into Christian faith: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation …” (1 Peter 2:9). Consider the impact of that appellation “royal priesthood.” In the Old Testament, kings and priests had two distinct vocations; Saul was rejected by God as king of Israel because he changed lanes and offered an unlawful sacrifice (see 1 Samuel 13). And yet we are now baptized into a nation of God’s people set apart for the very purpose to “become all things to all people” (1 Corinthians 9:22). Christian teachers are an affront to a society that would limit our value to tiny slices of expertise, defined by a minute number of credit hours of formal training—just a small, unfettered road trip compared to a lifetime of travel experience.
Embrace All Things in Christ
A “Renaissance man” (or woman) is a fading phrase used to describe a polymath, someone experienced in many fields and excited about all of them. How apt a description for the heirs of Luther, himself a child of the Renaissance, whose obedience to Christ brought forth the Reformation as he constantly changed lanes between theology, linguistics, hymn writing, education, politics, and the like. As I reflect upon the dizzying expression of gifts among our Christian educators, I am encouraged that Christian education still stands as a bulwark against the isolationism that pigeonholes students into increasingly narrow lanes on this life journey. We take up our five different preps across departments and disciplines and shake in a few extracurricular posts on top of our workload. We have been equipped by the power of God’s Word for every good work to which He calls us. When the Lord calls us to daunting new tasks (in the guise of an administrator), we answer, “Here I am,” and change lanes once again. Keep your hand on the turn signal—who knows when the Lord will next lead you to swerve into a new lane.