Yesterday I was talking with one of the business teachers at Bedford College about the students who had recently finished up their diplomas. When many of these students commenced, she remarked, they were convinced of their inability to study and learn in a classroom setting, and thus didn’t have any expectation to continue onto university after Bedford.
By the end of the year, almost that entire group did. Something about the change of scene, the slightly different environment, the personal care of the teachers had changed their perspective, not only of study, but also of their own abilities. Our conversation continued on to the many varied paths that young people can take with education these days, we are not confined to school, a system that simply doesn’t suit all comers.
Did you know if you left school after year 10, went to TAFE to do your high school equivalency, you could be at Uni a year earlier than your original classmates? It is similar with Bedford; although here you have the added bonus of potential credit for some units… there is more than one way to progress with your education.
Sometimes we can get (or feel) stuck on a path. Confined to the most conventional route. Restricted by the footsteps of our forebears. But if there’s one thing I cling to in Christianity, it is that it disrupts, it ruptures, and by doing so draws us toward undefined, unknowable potential in each and every moment! Christianity breaks with the conventional wisdom of the world, proclaiming foolishness (1 Cor 1:21), and luring us to embrace such folly and be emboldened with the courage to forge new paths.
A favourite Gospel story of mine is Jesus and Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10, a short one, I’ll pause why you go and read). This is a story filled with convention breaking activity. I want to focus on two moments. The first is clearer; Jesus breaks with the convention of association, choosing to share table fellowship with a traitor of the Jewish people – a man engaging in economic and political exploitation of an oppressed people. The second is Zacchaeus’ repentant decision. We might sometimes miss the unconventionality of this moment, because as readers of the gospel we are pleased with Zacchaeus’ decision. However, in terms of the values of the day (and probably of our day too) this is a bonkers decision. Before chatting with Jesus, Zacchaeus has an in with the local authority – enjoying the accompanying power and privilege. He has gathered wealth, influence, and security; traits conventionally valued in most societies (then and now included). This is a decision to spurn all of that. He gives away his wealth, and is most likely about to walk away from his position of power. Moved by the folly of Jesus, Zacchaeus is disrupting the conventional wisdom of the day to forge a new path.
New paths can be scary, especially when they go against the wisdom of the world. Yet we are people of the impossible, moved by the folly of the cross to live a life turned outward. And anyway, Christians are those who believe that the second person of the Trinity was fully present in a homeless Jew who died a criminal… convention was never our style.