For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:10
One of the things I most enjoy about my job as an instructor in the School of Education at Concordia University, Ann Arbor is the opportunity to introduce future teachers to some of the realities they are going to face as they prepare to enter the classroom. We talk about many different topics, but the one that seems to appear most often and with the greatest amount of importance is classroom management. This isn’t surprising; most teachers want their classrooms to be organized, efficient, and free of serious disciplinary problems and new teachers want to learn how to make this happen. Sadly, I get to break the news to them that there is no magic wand or three step process that will solve every problem. But before they give up and change majors, I do share with them a simple yet critical fact about life inside (and outside) of the classroom.
Life presents us with multiple opportunities to make choices, and each choice we make comes with a consequence. Some consequences are positive in nature while others are quite the opposite. But it is in the consequence that true learning exists. Advanced knowledge of a consequence can help us to make a better decision (I’d like to eat that donut, but it will not help me fit into my pants). Dealing with a significant consequence will help us to not make the same bad decision twice (My pants don’t fit, I guess I shouldn’t have eaten that donut). By understanding the power and importance of consequences, my students can learn that their classrooms will run more smoothly when the consequences that come from the choices we make will help guide us to do a better job in everything we do, making our classroom, workplace, homes, and world a better place.
It is with this basic understanding of how the learning process works that I share what I see as one of the greatest challenges that we as a people face. More and more we are finding ourselves operating our lives, our businesses, our governments, in truth – our world, with the goal of eliminating every form of consequence. Financial mismanagement is forgiven with bankruptcy protection, government bailouts, and increased programs and taxation. We speed in our cars and expect the officer to only pull us over if we are going 10 mph over the speed limit and even then we should just get a warning. Parents blame teachers for the problems in education. Teachers blame parents for the exact same things. Our sons wear their pants around their knees and can’t understand why they aren’t taken seriously. Our daughters wear low cut, skin tight clothing with words printed across their butts to make sure that everyone within a two mile radius is looking and can’t understand why society (and particularly men) will prey on them. As a society, we have pushed so hard against the long established norms that when the walls they provide crumble and we find ourselves unprotected, we look for someone else to save us from ourselves and pay for the damage we did all on our own. And if we could just allow ourselves to take a step back and look at what we’re creating, we’d be troubled by the direction we’re travelling and the consequences we face for trying to live without consequences.
That last sentence may need a second look but you must realize that trying to live life without consequences has consequences of its own. We lose the ability to take responsibility for things that matter. When we do speak, our words are dismissed because they, like everything else, have no consequence. In fact, the end result is a population and a life that has become totally inconsequential, defined as having “little or no importance, insignificant, trivial.” If we are successful, we will simply become irrelevant.
Simply put: This is not the purpose for which we were created!
Paul’s words stand in clear opposition to the worldly view. We were created by God with a specific design and purpose. We have been placed into the situations and experiences of our lives to prepare us specifically for what God has in store. Consider this: 3rd graders learn multiplication so they’re ready for algebra in 8th grade. Skipping multiplication would leave them unprepared to deal with what is coming. The same holds true for people who want to avoid the consequences of their own choices. They miss out on the lessons God intended for them, leaving them ill-prepared for what is to come, forced to relearn the lesson in a different time and place, and positioning them to forego blessings that God ultimately has in store for them because they chose to duck and run.
As sons and daughters of the Most High God, we live lives of consequence. May we seek out the lessons God has placed before us so that we might also find the blessings that come from significant lives in Him.