Education That Mattered

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The new school year has begun! Even though I’m far removed from that world at this point, the recent flurry of back-to-school activity caused me to reflect on some of my past educational experiences. I was extremely and undeservedly privileged to go to great schools with generally excellent teachers and professors. Maybe I couldn’t say this while I was in it, slogging through papers and finals, but I truly consider all my education, from elementary school through college, to be one of the richest blessings in my life from the Lord and from my parents.

Even though I had such a positive experience across the board, there are a few classes that were a cut above the rest. I didn’t just learn something, God used these courses and the men and women who taught them to build or alter my entire worldview, and as a result, to see God and His world more clearly. I thought I’d use this week’s post to share about a few of these classes in gratitude for God’s blessing and sovereignty in shaping my mind and heart through these experiences, for His glory. I think you’ll notice a pattern that the reason these classes were so meaningful is because my ignorance and preconceived notions were challenged in some way or another. When we humbly consider different or opposing views, we grow. We either accept something new because we’ve learned new information, or we better fortify what we think and why.

International Drug Trade
So I’ve lived a very sheltered, safe, and suburban life. Drugs and crime have never touched my life in any personally significant way. But the world of law enforcement, crime, espionage, etc. has always fascinated me. This class opened my eyes to the realities of the drug trade around the world – the supply and demand of it all, how drugs move across borders and in and out of prisons, its ties to organized crime, its economic effects, etc. Seeing how complex the whole system is from end to end challenged my college-student eyes that mostly saw the world and the solutions to its problems in black and white.

Theology
I audited two semesters of theology at Eternity Bible College after I moved back home once I graduated from UC Irvine. I think there’s a real potential for Christians (including myself) to go off the rails in letting their theology puff them up or cloud their interpretation of Scripture, but I do think systematic theology can sometimes be helpful in putting names to ideas and grouping certain concepts together logically. And that’s basically what happened for me. By God’s grace I already had a fairly solid grasp of Scripture after years of growing up in good churches, and the class just helped me to really sharpen “the reason for my hope” in a way that was very profound and invigorating. The instructor made the class as devotional as possible, constantly calling us to really meditate and struggle through what we were learning, not to just fill our brains with more head knowledge. He always presented all sides/perspectives to an issue, and challenged us to root our minds in Scripture to discern truth from error, which are sometimes mixed together in one theological concept! Lastly, and most importantly, he kept God big. He would remind us that there are many things we just plain don’t know, and it’s wrong to contort God to fit our theological boxes just so we can feel like we understand it all. What important wisdom for us all!

History of Israel/Palestine
I signed up to take a course studying the history and implications of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. I went into it extremely pro-Israel, mostly because it was the only narrative I’d ever heard. The Jews are God’s chosen people, they are in the right, case closed. But as my professor unpacked the rich history of the land and people of the region in an incredibly fair and balanced way, my initial unwavering support of Israel started to falter. By the end of the class, and even more so after my first visit to Israel with a Palestinian friend, my entire perspective had shifted dramatically. I no longer see the conflict in black and white, and my views of Israelis and Palestinians are far more nuanced and complicated than they were before. I think God is honored anytime our prejudices are lifted and we stop seeing entire people groups as one thing or another.

Women’s Studies
I never intended to touch any of the Women’s Studies courses in college with a ten-foot pole. I knew what godly womanhood was, why pollute my mind with the liberal garbage I just knew I’d hear in those classes? Well, at some point I decided that my full college experience wouldn’t be complete until I took at least one women’s study class. So I did. And you know what? I learned a lot! The class transformed my understanding of the term “feminism,” and opened my eyes to realities I had never noticed before. While there were certainly ideas presented that I disagreed with, I came out with eyes even more discerning and perceptive of both the blessings of womanhood and the ways it is distorted in our day and age.

So what about you? Is there a teacher or a class that God has used to expand and enrich your worldview? I’d love to hear about it!

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