I’m sure you’re all (note assumption of a readership here) familiar with the old adage, “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach” or one of its variants “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach; those who can’t teach, teach gym/lecture/counsel (delete or add as appropriate)”.
For whatever reason, this phrase popped into my head earlier today and I immediately made a connection to something that happened at my last CofS assessment conference. It was a comment about how I appeared to equate my faith with being busy doing ‘God-stuff’. The reason I linked the two is that, in a sense, the adage holds a degree of ‘truth’ when I consider it in the light of the criticism of my faith life. I’m not one of these ‘in-your-face’ Christians who walks around festooned with crosses and takes every opportunity to tell you how much Jesus has changed their life (actually, I’m not sure I know anyone like that anyway, so maybe it’s not the best comparison). On a daily basis I go about life just like any other bloke. I’m not overtly religious; I don’t speak damnation and judgement over injustice or even petty unethical behaviour; I don’t praise God loudly when something works out in a good way; I have arguments with my family; I throw tantrums when something really winds me up; I’ve downloaded music from the web to listen to without paying for it.
Where my faith becomes more obvious is if someone asks about theology or religion or church or any one of a number of areas where I put my faith to ‘work’. So, in one sense I fit the adage – I’m not very good at ‘doing’ and so I ‘teach’. And, in a sense, the criticism of the assessment report is justified.
But, it’s also very wrong. My faith comes to the fore in my busyness – it’s through my busyness that I live out my faith. When I’m not ‘doing’, that doesn’t mean I have no faith. It simply means that the outlets for my faith are not there. And that’s simply who I am and why, to an extent, I like to keep busy. I like working out my faith because that’s where I find satisfaction. It’s part of the reason I feel called to ministry – it’s a life of ‘doing’. And it’s also why I do feel a slight sense of disconnection from God when I’m not busy – because I know it’s not what I’m called to. I’d never be a good witness left to sit in a pew Sunday by Sunday. My natural reticence would mean that, in a secular job, I simply couldn’t be the sort of person who could witness effectively.
So that’s why I don’t ‘do’ and why I ‘teach’. Not sure what would happen if I had to consider the third option – maybe I’m there already.