Over the past couple of months, I’ve spent Monday afternoons at Dunearn Secondary School, together with a class of secondary one students. First and foremost, an honest confession – I know that my strength is with developing emerging leaders, so when KK told me that I had to stand-in for him for two sessions, I couldn’t help but to brace myself for the challenge of teaching 13 year olds. I like being around young people, but handling these especially restless students required a higher calling; I applaud KK as well as the school teachers, who have done it for years.
I took a gamble today and conducted an activity that I wasn’t really confident of pulling off or sure if it would succeed. I briefed the class on the six typical roles in a committee – chairperson, secretary, treasurer, publicity coordinator, logistics coordinator and programme coordinator – and got them to plan a fictitious event from scratch. The nominated chairperson in each group would choose from the following events to plan: rock concert, CCA open house, school excursion, iJourney camp, fun fair or sports day. They were given 25 minutes to nail this.
When I handed over the time to them, I was pleased to see how involved they were. I had expected the students to get rowdy and to lose interest but they were so engrossed in the planning and creative process; I had expected them to give up or ask a barrage of questions about the various roles but they grasp their functions pretty quickly. I had given each group an imaginary budget, but after seeing how absorbed they were, I upped their budget ten-fold to encourage them to dream even bigger and get even more creative; their budget calculations, though elementary, really caught me by surprise.
I was secretly delighted at their seriousness in accomplishing the given task. When it was time to present, each chairperson was given five minutes to describe everything the group had discussed; it was truly a sight to behold as every student listened attentively and responded enthusiastically to the wacky ideas tendered. I closed the session by sharing PK’s rags-to-riches story (founder of Nike) and drilled into them the importance of planning – especially if they desired to be successful. I drew parallels from the events-planning exercise and helped them to see that planning precedes success.
I sincerely hope that they caught it and would apply it into their lives. Frankly, I’ve never seen them paying such intense attention before. I gave them another five minutes to translate what they have learnt into fulfilling their childhood dreams. During this time of reflection, one (of the more serious) girls actually planned to move up from the normal technical to the normal academic stream by the end of the year to fulfill her dreams of becoming a rich businesswoman. My heart leaped for joy with her. Pardon the cliché, but if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
Today, these students taught me a lesson even as I shared my lesson with them – that if you instill belief in people by giving them the key to being responsible for their own planning for success (or failure), they might just surprise you by actually taking ownership of their lives and pilgrimage to success. I was even treated to a bonus exhibition of dandy ideas! I believe that if you empower a young person to dream, they will truly dare to dream along with you. The challenge then, for youth workers like me, is to give them a platform, some perimeters, and to help their see the picture that it takes a team to realise a dream.
This was, without a doubt, the iJourney session that left the greatest impression on me thus far.
“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” (Revelation 3:19)
“For the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:12)
“For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Hebrews 12:6)
“Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” (Proverbs 13:24)
For all the geniuses who read my blog, you’d have already picked up the key words of the passages above. (If you haven’t, I’ve highlighted it for you.) I’m talking about serious scolding, not meaningless teasing. It seems clear to me that discipline is connected to love and vice-versa. However, in this day and age (and especially during the age of growing up), youths may struggle to understand this crucial link. I think it’s because they associate discipline with demerit. I don’t blame them – who enjoys being scolded?
I, for one, grew up getting scolded by a lot of people, left, right and centre; I was always punished in school, rebuked in church, nagged at at home and corrected by friends. It was frustrating of course, and I never saw the beauty of this until many years later. It took maturity to see beyond the unpleasantness of discipline. I’m quietly confident to think the people who looked after me bothered to discipline me simply because they loved me.
It’s actually a logical conclusion if you come to think about it. My mother has told me before that it pains her more to cane me than it literally pains me. PL and RY, the father-role models in my life, also concur – that it indeed inflicts more pain to the discipliner than the disciplined; after all, who enjoys chastising their own flesh and blood? Any normal parent would say the same thing too. Yet, it is imperative to discipline. I think parents discipline their children because they care and want the best for them; you’d hardly find a parent who scolds his or her child for his or her own personal gain.
So the next time you are confronted by your pastor, mentor, leader or teacher, or reprimanded by your parents, or chided by your friends, to sort out a particular issue in your life, know that you are being scolded because of this wonderful element called love. However, not everyone is an expert in discipline and thus may choose the wrong method even though they may have the right intentions. So, sometimes you will struggle to see this (tough) love. But I’d like to encourage you to remain positive every time you are disciplined.
But can you imagine the day where people stop disciplining you? I think it signals the end for you it tells you that they have given up on you. I always believe that one of the saddest things that could ever happen to you is when others to accept your shortcomings as part of God’s unchangeable plan for your life; in order words, they have lost all hope that you could change for the better and have decided to just embrace you as you are, without any desire to correct you anymore.
“Hey, don’t bother about him; he’s always like that.”
“Eh, forget it. There’s no use talking to him because he won’t listen.”
“Ignore him – you’re wasting your time if you think he’ll change.”
These are some of the words I will never want to hear in my life; it’s far worse than being disciplined by harsh words.
On Tuesday, my Shepherds and I attended a short talk conducted by Dr Ed Pousson, author of Jesus Mentor Me. He taught from Luke 2:39-52 (the anecdote of how the 12-year-old Jesus was away from His parents, at the temple of Jerusalem, discoursing with teachers five times his age). Dr Pousson’s insightful sharing caused a paradigm shift for most of us. I’d like to capture the key lessons I took away from that session:
- Jesus did not have a headstart with His knowledge of the Word; He had to be acquainted with scripture, go to school and study hard just like everyone else – He was on a level playing field with you and I.
- The difference between Jesus and us – we have Jesus to learn from but Jesus didn’t have Jesus to learn from! Therefore, He is our teacher and so we as students ought to adopt a posture as one who would sit and absorb from a great rabbi.
- Many of us find a job but miss our spiritual vocation – let’s not forget what our true purpose in life is, and we can only know that when we seek God continuously.
- We should learn as much as we can from our teachers, pastors and mentors but there comes a point where we can learn no more and hence it’s necessary to have a direct download from the Spirit.
- If Jesus practised spiritual disciples, then we have no excuse to not do what He did.
- We should always have a burning heart and an open mind.
- The Holy Spirit reveals the truth in our hearts; the best way to store truth is by memorising Scripture. If there is no software installed, then there’s nothing to recall.
I returned home with the purchase of C.S. Lewis’ The Weight of Glory. Yet another book queued up and waiting to be devoured. Such optimism…