Monday, January 10, 2011

Their Deepest Fear; Our Greatest Task

This pasted Sunday our Church celebrated the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. The official end of the Christmas Season, this important Feast Day marks the beginning of Jesus's public ministry, His association with our humanity, and His membership in the community of the Kingdom of God.

But, for John the Baptist, it also marked a very important event.

It was the moment that--despite any feelings of inadequacy, shortcomings or low self-esteem--he fulfilled the mission for which he was created. It was as if Jesus asked John the Baptist to take a shot at the buzzer, pitch in the bottom of the ninth with bases loaded, or kick a game winning field goal. John's response would most likely be ours, too, unless instead of blood we were blessed with ice running through our veins:

"I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?" (Mt. 3:14)

Or, in other words, "You want me to do what?"

But Jesus shows a confidence, belief and faith in John that John doesn't have in himself. Jesus, despite being the 'best player on the team', puts the game and its outcome into John's capable, albeit anxious, hands.

"Allow it for now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness."

Or, in other words, "John, you can do it. I know you'll make it."

I apologize if the sports' analogies diminish the magnitude of this event.

In the world of education, this would be the moment that the teacher reveals an utmost confidence in the abilities of a insecure student. It's the moment that the teacher tells a struggling student, "I believe in you. You've worked hard. You've studied. You are going to do such a good job on this assignment."

It's different than being blindly optimistic. It would be foolish to encourage a student knowing that he/she hasn't studied. It does no good to merely blow sunshine toward a student who hasn't adequately prepared or mislead a student without the basic skills needed for success on a particular assignment.

At some level, though, the greatest task of education is to get students to believe in themselves. As Marianne Williamson puts it in her book, A Return to Love,
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light , not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
It's easy to be mediocre. It's safe. You'll never fail if you never try anything beyond your suspected abilities. Who was John to baptize Christ? Who are we that God has a similar plan for us?

Marianne continues,
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
As educators, it is our greatest task to get our students to shine brilliantly. Our greatest task is to show students that God has a magnificent plan for them, one that probably stretches them beyond the limits of their own confidence.

Baptize me. Lead my people. Go and sin no more. Become a priest. Open a medical clinic for people in financial distress. Marry her. Be a wonderful father. Go back to Haiti. Pray.

Become the person I created you to be.

But, do not be afraid...for you are My beloved child, for whom I have a wonderful plan and with whom I am well pleased.