Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. –3 John 1:11
The year Don Adams retired, he called me. Don taught art at my high school for at least twenty-five years, five of which involved enduring me in his classroom. He called me that spring because of a large piece of my art that had hung at various places around the school since I had graduated. “They’re demolishing this building, so I have to clear out everything from the art room,” he explained.
We ate lunch together the day I went to pick up my artwork. He treated me to a typically bland cafeteria meal and we chatted over the years since I had moved on. When I explained that I didn’t do anything in the way of visual art any more, he looked visibly disappointed. What I should have said I didn’t recognize until driving home. What I should have said was this:
You taught me art, for which I possessed a modest gift, but you taught me more. From you, I learned how to be a teacher. I learned how to meet each student where they are. I learned from you to value the talented and the untalented alike. I learned to be encouraging and not to tolerate laziness. I learned how to maintain boundaries between teacher and student while not seeming in the least unapproachable. You taught me to be prepared but not to be inflexible when opportunities arise. In short, you taught me how to do my life work. For that I will always remember you.
When we imitate God by doing good, we’re demonstrating his effect on our lives. Just as I don’t always live up to the standards that Don Adams set–and he probably didn’t always live up to them himself–I will always strive for them. I’ll be his sort of teacher. Can I claim to be God’s sort of person? On my good days. Hopefully today more than yesterday. And you?