What skill are you just now beginning to learn? Can you recall the last new skill that you learned? With the year we have had, perhaps you learned something technology-related to accommodate the remote aspects of your job. Or maybe it was something one of your students or children showed you about their world. Perhaps you have tried to be Mr. Fix It or Ms. Do-It-Yourself on projects around the house to save some money and learn something new. While some of us who picked up new quarantine habits may have since dropped them, some have continued in the brain-stretching process and further extended these habits.
I found myself in an interesting place recently. On a weekend visit to the beautiful city of Philadelphia, I was exploring the famous “Magic Gardens,” which is an ongoing mixed media artistic exploration of mosaic recycled materials. What was amazing about it was seeing that the same garbage from my own beloved and sometimes “dirty” New York City was also there. But it was beautified and transformed. It got me thinking about what it felt like to create, build, and truly learn something new. I decided right then and there that I would commit to learning something new with what is left of summer. That thing was braiding! I have long been a hair twister, pony-tail maker, and salon payer. But this summer, I chose to be a beginner at braiding.
Sometimes We Forget What It Means to Be a Beginner
As a beginner, I cannot do it all just yet. But the lessons I am learning through my mistakes along the way are reminding me of what it is like to stretch my brain. What is helpful about this in the context of education is that learning new things allows us to take on more of a student perspective in figuring out new concepts. Often as educators, we fall into the mode of lecturer or sit and forget what it means to truly be a beginner. In learning more about braiding and expanding options with my natural hair, I was reminded of what the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 4:9–12:
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Solomon writes about the power of relationships in Ecclesiastes 4. You may remember Ecclesiastes 4:12, especially if you’ve attended a wedding. But the truth of the matter is that this verse can be applied not just to a romantic relationship but to friendships and co-laborers in Christ. When braiding cornrows well, you have to grip three strands of hair and make sure that they are close to the scalp as you continue across your head. Easier written than done! The end result is a beautiful braid that can serve as a protective and purposed style for your hair. A braid is much stronger than a two-strand twist. And as Solomon states, it is not quickly nor easily broken.
Life Is Woven from the Strands of God, Self, and Neighbor
As we think about what this means in the context of relationships, we must examine the “three strands.” This is representative of God, our self, and a third person (or neighbor). Relationships that have God embedded into them do not break quickly nor easily. This is so vital to remember in our classrooms, offices, playgrounds, parking lots, gyms, and cafeterias as we work with our brothers and sisters in Christ to educate and to share our faith so that the next generation of young people know of God’s goodness. Imagining your work alongside your coworkers as partnerships for the Gospel is key as we return to the school-year routine.
It can be easy to forget what it is like to be a beginner. What is so wonderful about God’s love for us, displayed in His Son Jesus Christ, is that we have opportunities to grow in Him in every stage of life. This includes each year of our teaching career— including those at the start of new positions and those with retirement on the horizon. It is not too late to be more purposeful about the way we see others and the way we ask God to help us align ourselves with His mighty power to love and His gift to work. May you be continually reminded that God is braided into your life and that He is the one who gives you strength to embark on new beginnings.
Looking to learn something new or start a good habit? Try the daily readings offered in Thirty Days in God’s Word : A Path of Discovery.