Teachers and Mentors
When I was a young man, I dreamed of attending Northwestern University, the school that both my parents, one of my uncles and my maternal grandfather attended. I thought I would train to be a surgeon and in fact, I was accepted to attend this Big 10 school as part of their inaugural program to complete 4 years of undergrad and 4 years of medical school in one 6 year accelerated curriculum. I was really jazzed. Unfortunately, my parents couldn’t afford for me to attend Northwestern and not going there became my biggest regret dealing with my college educational experience.
Dad had also wanted me to apply to Brown University but I wasn’t interested in that. My other choice, aside from Northwestern, was the College of William and Mary, in Williamsburg, VA. I knew it was a good school but my primary interest in going there was the fact that I absolutely loved Williamsburg and the school borders the famed historic district that I so love. Mom and Dad thought the school would be too liberal for my midwestern roots and I really don’t know that I would have been accepted, but I never found out. That’s because our family couldn’t afford that school either and if I couldn’t get to Northwestern, I also didn’t think there was a way I could get to William and Mary.
As one of the oldest schools in the country, founded by charter 331 years ago today, on February 8, 1693, some of the country’s greatest leaders attended this fabulous institution. In fact, I know a number of people who attended there. Without exception, they are sharp, well educated people who value the training that received in Williamsburg. And every time I am out there, I make it a priority to drive through the campus and invariably my mind wanders off to fantasize about what it would have been like to have received my education credentials from William and Mary.
I guess God had other plans for me and, as you know, I didn’t attend seminary until I was in my mid forties. My undergrad work was done at the University of Illinois at Chicago and believe me, it was a far cry from the schools I wanted to attend. Thankfully, when I did finally attend my graduate level training, I had a wonderful mentor and teacher, Dr, Steve Smith, who helped me through more than 3 years of seminary and countless classes and research papers. He was almost singularly responsible for making my scholastic experience a wonderful time in my life when I was able to learn much more about God that I had ever thought possible.
Most of the people I know who achieve scholastic success really attribute their good fortune to a teacher or mentor who poured their life into a student. In fact, the more I think of it, the more I realize that even in elementary school, great teachers are incredibly important. The apostle Paul was taught by one of the finest scholars of his day. Back then, absent the official schools that now dot our landscape, students tried to align themselves as apprentices to well known teachers. The elders would have to accept the students who wished to follow them and it was up to these educators to pass on their knowledge and wisdom to their proteges.
And it made a great difference in your life based on who trained you. Kind of like a college diploma today, studying under one of the masters gave you quite a leg up in society. The verse for tonight is from Acts 22:3, where Paul mentions his teacher, Gamaliel, one of the most revered scholars in the land. Paul tells us, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.”
My encouragement this evening is that God either has placed or will place somebody in your life who can help draw you closer to Him. And that’s really important. My prayer is that you will dedicate yourself to study and devotional time with God in an effort to have a deeper relationship with the God of the universe. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…