Learning to Use Both Eyes
To the reader: This week’s meditation calls on students to look around and see the world in different ways. Thanksgiving gives all of us time to stop and look. What do we see? Who have we overlooked? May God give us all eyes to see.
Learning to Use Both Eyes
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
– James 1:27
What makes a school a Christian school? Is it prayer in school? Bible reading? Singing of praise songs? Yes, of course. Chapel is a key part of most programs, and classes often begin with prayer. Certainly it is proper for schools to do this, for without regular opportunities to hear the Word of the Lord and to respond with overt expressions of penitence and praise, Christian schools might soon lapse into mere good-hearted humanism.
But is prayer and praise enough for a school to call itself Christian? Nicholas Wolterstorff says not. He argues for a larger view of school mission to include the task of development and the task of healing.
Wolterstorff explains by telling the story of a social visit in the home of a colleague one evening. With them was a doctor from the local medical school who taught interns the skill of delivering babies. As the evening went on the conversation drifted to how the doctor prepared the interns for treating mothers lying in the hospital whose babies had been stillborn. “I tell them,” he said, “I tell them that they need two eyes. One eye is not enough; they need two eyes. With one, they have to check the I.V. with its bag of medication; with the other, they have to weep. I tell them that they need two eyes.”
So prayer and praise, yes, but also development and healing are needed in order to provide a two-eyed education for the students. The first eye is the eye of competence. Through it students may develop a growing awareness of the many ways to develop and care for the created order and the people in it. As the Lord leads, one day they will be developers and care-ers themselves as teachers, doctors, lawyers, home makers, engineers and in other walks of life.
Like the doctor, students need the eye of compassion when they learn about others who are in physical or spiritual distress. They need the eye of sadness and perhaps anger when they see how human sinfulness litters the social landscape with broken homes, pride and jealousy in personal lives, injustice in the political process, or materialism that defines the good life in terms of what can be purchased at the shopping mall.
In the Christian school, students learn that the path from prayer in chapel to investigation in the chemistry laboratory to service in the soup kitchen is a short and direct one. Turning one’s eyes to Jesus means turning to explore God’s world, and helping widows and orphans in their distress as well.
Give us voices to praise you, O Lord. And give us eyes to see what you would have us to be and to do in your world. Amen.