As I walked into the room I felt calmly prepared for class. I reviewed my tools: Bible – check, study notes – check, handouts – check, technology in place and tested – check. I gave the background for the biblical passage I was teaching that Sunday morning, a chapter from one of Paul’s letters. It included disparate sections that did not quickly reveal how they
related to one another, but I had touched base with my trusted biblical scholar-book friends and felt prepared to tie it all together in a meaningful way.
The Agape class was seriously engaged with the word, jumping on my every query with gusto. (When things go so well it’s hard to not feel good about it—we were really unpacking the scripture.) Then a person toward the back of the room said something like, “I like that Paul includes thanksgiving in this verse.” Whoa! Where did that come from, I thought; it was off track from my outline. I did my best to appear gracious in acknowledging the irrelevant contribution and moved ahead.
When it happened again. The same person from the back of the room offered another comment: “Did you notice the repetition of thanksgiving in this paragraph too, just like the one above?” To be honest, I hadn’t. I probably mumbled something about Paul inserting the concept of thanksgiving quite liberally into his letters, even when the main thrust of the passage was on something else.
You guessed it. About ten minutes later it happened again, same person similar comment. I tried to hide my unsettledness and proceeded to finish the lesson and class.
Later, at home, I replayed the class and “interruptions” again and again. I was bothered that I was bothered about what had happened, but then the light began to dawn on my dullness. Yes, Paul often threw in the word thankful or a related word (even in passages where the fit seems forced)—because he knew people are more naturally prone to grumbling than giving thanks. Then the truth burst in upon me in all its simplicity—thanksgiving is an indicator of my relationship with Christ. Wow, I had never thought of it like that. The closer I am to him the more thanksgiving comes naturally from my heart and lips. Or to say the opposite, when I feel and express thanksgiving infrequently, it probably indicates that I’m more the center of my life than I should be. As that realization swept over me afresh, it deeply jolted me because I had rather casually dismissed my lack of spontaneous thanksgiving to my personality, which I blamed on God. (What an easy, logical escape.) The truth has continued to hammer on me—my level of thanksgiving reveals something very important about my spiritual perspective and relationship with Christ.
Once again, the “lesson” for which I was responsible to teach was more for me than others.
A short bio from Doug Bartlett—I had the incredible blessing of being born to a wonderful, fully-Christian couple. So I’ve been in and around the church all my life, for better or worse. My most recent endeavors were to be the executive director of YCAP in McMinnville and to be the manager of Newberg Habitat ReStore. My greatest claim to fame is to have been blessed through 40+ years of marriage to Sheila.