Students that Shine
We talk about a student “shining” in class. Do we know what that really means?
For this we must go back to what is now a common description of the task of theological education – teaching for transformation. This widespread concept has a problem; the emphasis seems to be on changing the student, that we must transform them from what they are to what they could or should be. But is that the full story?
What if we used the word transfiguration instead?
This word refers back to the time when Jesus appeared to three of the disciples, shining in his glory. But the glory was not given to him, it was what he possessed, what he was, what he would be – because that is what he is. Jesus was not transformed from one thing to another, he was transfigured. It was just that his reality was, for a few moments, allowed to shine through. It was a display of what was there, but hidden until then.
It seems to me that this is a very important thing to say about our teaching of students. We have the task of providing the opportunity, encouragement and help for the glorious things inside the heart and mind of the student to shine out. There is plenty of talk about creating the right learning “space” for our students (not so much physical space as mental and psychological space). The objective of transfiguration says that we need to create space for our students to shine.
What sort of shining? There is no doubt that all our students will all shine one day. They will be restored by the power of the resurrection to what humanity was intended to be. Then there will be plenty of shining glory around them, plenty of dedication, plenty of clarity, plenty of creativity, plenty of sweet reasonableness – they may even be on time to lectures if lectures are still allowed in the new heaven and the new earth! All of this is there in the seed now and we want it to flower before then. We want glory before glory. To achieve that is the job of the teacher.
So, this creates a number of key questions: What is the glory already there to be displayed? How will it be different for each student? What keeps the glory from being revealed? What can the teacher do to create the space where it can be revealed? These are vital questions but a different set of questions which arise from the transformation concept we are used to dealing with.
Now we had better come down the mountain. Sometimes the only thing shining in the lecture room is the data projector. Students are often not what we would like them to be, let alone what they really are, glorious in Christ. We need transfiguration but we also need transformation. We have to bring something, the teachers have to cart in the glory sometimes. Students also have to become what they presently are not.
But, when all’s said and done, transformation concepts are not enough. Transfiguration is the flash of glory for a while, which we pray for and work for, and which leaves us, with Peter on the mount, longing for it to be permanent in our students.
We will have to wait for that and, meanwhile, we could do with a bit more transfiguration ourselves.