As each summer wanes, my “teacher-wife” girds herself for the onslaught of the middle school students she will soon be guiding for the next nine months. A favorite motivation activity is watching “teacher” movies. One of her favorites is Finding Forrester. While not a Christian film, it is very uplifting. The themes explored are many.
Jamal, a talented young basketball player in New York City, would have rather been known for his capabilities on the court than for his proficiency with a pen. Unknown to his friends and family, Jamal kept hidden away the journals that could reveal his secret passions of reading and writing. He did not want anyone to know what really made him tick. But, Jamal could not hide forever behind his athletic facade. An astute teacher recognized that he was “dumbing down” in her class so as not to stick out in front of his neighborhood buddies. Having been found out through standardized testing, Jamal moved to a private school where his gifts could potentially flourish.
It was then that he discovered the identity of the watcher. Living high above the neighborhood basketball court where Jamal’s pick up games played out, a man wasted his years away in solitude. Looking down from his window on the world, he saw life pass him by day after day. A highly acclaimed writer with just one successful novel, William Forrester retreated from the questions of his literary acclaim, until the day Jamal burst into his life through the unlocked window on a dare.
Watching this movie for the “umpteenth” time, I realized that one stream of thought in the film relates to our subject of discipleship. The latent talent in Jamal would not have bloomed unless Forrester got up out of his lazy-boy, overcame his own inadequacy fears, opened the front door to his apartment, and invited Jamal inside. Because he did, Jamal became a different person. And so did Forester.
The literature teacher at Jamaal’s new school assigned “Avalon Landing” as a reading project. The author had only written one book, a Pulitzer Prize winner. Realizing that the author of “Avalon Landing” was the neighborhood recluse, Jamal asked him to read some of his stuff. Over time, Forrester agreed to help Jamal become the writer of his dreams. When Jamal’s own words failed to make it to the blank page in the typewriter, Forrester handed him an article about baseball that he had once written. “Start typing my words until you feel your own taking over.” Tentatively Jamal began, carefully pushing each key so as not to make a mistake. “Hit the keys. Jamal, HIT THE KEYS” Forrester bellowed. Through Forrester’s opening paragraph, with growing force and confidence, Jamal’s own words began to flow. What powerful and strong words they were, the kind with the potential to change lives! They did. While Jamal discovered himself for the first time, William also discovered who he was. Without Jamal, the consuming cancer of isolation was killing him in his solitude.
We have been called to make disciples. This cannot happen in a vacuum. Most of us are so isolated and consumed by our own issues that we cannot see the forest for the trees. We lie to ourselves, saying we are too busy and don’t have time, we aren’t qualified, we blah, blah, blah. Making disciples is as much about you as it is someone else. You need to be involved in the life of someone else, someone who is not part of your own family. You need them as much as they need you, maybe more.
Here is a very interesting question. What are YOU afraid of? If you are angry all the time, sad about the way life has turned out and frightened by your own shadow, then open the door to your private places and do some business with your Savior.
“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Revelation 3:19-22).”
Don’t be surprised if Jesus brings someone along with Him into your home and heart for supper. If He does, invite him / her back. While they find their words under your influence, you just might discover some new ones of your own.
In closing, I want to thank some disciples of Jesus that the Lord has brought into my life. Chris, Shaun, Bruce and David… Tuesday mornings are one of the highlights of my week. You’ll never know how God has used each of you to teach me. Jimmy, I am so proud of you and Jean. I can’‘t wait to see what God does with your lives. Timothy Teamers, you have really sharpened me as we have made preparations to travel around the Promised Land together. Thanks for letting me show you the ropes.
Gabe, I have cherished the time we have had together. I think about your wisdom and gentle spirit often, and you will go far. Finally to Noemi, I have learned so much from you. You never stop teaching (even at home) and this old dog is learning some new tricks.
Do we have to wait until next year to watch another teacher movie?