Rote learning, as a major educational strategy, went out of style years ago, as did similar practices in the church, like rote prayers and Bible verse memorization. A song came on the radio the other day where, in a similar vein, the lead singer was imploring listeners against rote worship–a faith that was just “going through the motions.”
I was singing along with the radio, when I stopped suddenly–too full of memories to continue. I was remembering how, twenty-five years ago as a single teacher in Japan, all the “rote learning” I had done in my first twenty-five years in Sunday school and church services brought me into a new and deeper relationship with Christ. Whistling old hymns as I walked down Tokyo streets, reflecting on the Lord’s Prayer as I visited temples and shrines, hearing Bible verses in my head as I dealt with questions of loneliness and doubt, all worked together to bring me new life. “Going through the motions” bore fruit when I needed it to.
Then, this past Monday, school began with cameras flashing and the realization that I was completely unprepared for one of my least favorite school activities–school picture day. Besides the fact that I was wearing the wrong color and style and an extra twenty pounds, the photographer seemed devoted to presenting every part of me in the worst possible lighting and angle. When she showed me the preview on the computer screen, I had one thought–“DELETE!” My face looked too small, my chins too many, my middle too–I could go on, but I think you “get the picture.”
And, thank you, but no, I didn’t want to “try again later.” I spent the next several hours feeling sorry for myself and angry that I had done nothing to help myself since the last time a photo made me feel this way. I was feeling quite grumpy, that is, until two people simply going down the school hallway reminded me what gracious and purposeful living is all about–people who “go through the motions” in the best possible ways.
My friend and co-worker, Catherine Gustafson, has faced a difficult diagnosis of diabetes with a fierce determination to do whatever she could about it. Every single day since then, she has gone through the motions of tying up her walking shoes and putting on whatever gear she needed to face the worst and best of Seattle weather. Hot, cold, rainy, blustery, downright stormy, Catherine has not missed a day of walking in almost 470 days. Her condition has vastly improved, and she even goes on vacations to national parks where she can do even more strenuous hiking.
The other person I spotted in the hallway on Monday is a student, a 6th grader named Cassidy Huff. She rides a scooter to most classes because her body doesn’t work quite like other kids’ bodies. One foot is several inches higher off the ground then the other, and she is facing her 31st surgery later this spring to help her body’s many issues. She smiles her way through most of her days, and even though she doesn’t demand a lot of extra attention or sympathy for her obvious struggles, kids say (with a big smile) that “Cassidy knows everyone, and everyone knows Cassidy!” She was voted student body president, and she does her job with enthusiasm and flare. I usually only find out about her surgeries because she’s come back to school apologizing that her library books are overdue and simply taking care of what needs to be taken care of. She routinely, positively, kindly does what needs to be done. By going through the motions of life in this way, Cassidy, in her scooter, stands head and shoulders above the crowd.
Needless to say, I felt humbled, a bit ashamed of myself, and in awe as I reflected this week on the lives of these two people. May God bless them, and all the other people (including many of you, dear readers!) who “go through the motions of life” routinely inspiring me and everyone else!
The LORD is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies (Psalm 118:7).