Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. – John 14:6
Teaching someone how to use a brush to paint a picture is best accomplished through a combination of “telling” and “showing”. For instance, the student must be aware of how much pressure to apply to the bristles, and in what direction. The bristles can be flexed, but only so far, otherwise the brush is ruined. Within the proper limits, varying pressure will produce a line of varying width. The line of paint produced by a brush will get narrower as the pressure on the brush is eased. Variables such as the shape of the brush, how thin the paint is and how much of it is on the brush will also affect the line created.
In order to truly understand this, the student must have it modeled by the teacher. An actual brush applied in the proper way will show the student what is meant. And then the student must practice, because it is only through developing hand-eye coordination that the student becomes facile in the skill of brush use.
When Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”, Jesus said to him, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” This is the “telling” part of his teaching. But there was a “showing” part as well. It was through interaction with Jesus that the disciples learned how to follow his Way.
Who showed you the ins and outs of loving others? Was it a grandparent who seemed to “get” you when everybody else, exasperated, had given up? Was it an older brother who teased you mercilessly but protected you from the bullies at school? Was it your mom who tucked you in at night and fed you your favorite foods when you were feeling blue? Or was it a friend who wandered the lanes with you in the afternoons when school was done?
Learning to love is like learning to use a brush. It isn’t as simple as it looks. It takes a certain “soul-eye” coordination that only comes after modeling and with practice. For instance, one has to understand that loving is an intention rather than a feeling. It involves tuning the ears of the heart to the other and listening hard.
The disciples received both modeling from Jesus and the opportunity to practice his Way. Both within their community and when Jesus sent them out two by two into the world, they applied the skills they had been shown. They then came back and talked about what they had done, and through this process they learned and grew.
How do we model the skills involved in following the Way of Jesus in our faith communities? How and with whom do we practice?
Image by Laurie Gudim.
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and liturgical artist, a writer and lay preacher living in Fort Collins, CO. See her work online at Everyday Mysteries.