Able and Willing

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Able and Willing

            Are you able and willing? In their book How We Learn, a Christian Teacher’s Guide to Educational Psychology authors Klaus Issler and Ronald Habermas discuss the importance of being able and willing. The term “able” is defined by the authors as “whether students are capable of successful participation” while the term “willingness speaks of their motivation.” (Issler and Habermas, 100).

            A few days ago I was in working in a church nursery and, having no other available seating at the time; I sat on a piano bench while the babe snuggled in my lap. That is when he saw it. His eyes fell upon its enticing ivory and black keys. A large grin slowly spread across his face as my brain registered his intention. Tiny hands began banging the ten keys nearest his reach. Two other infants were sleeping nearby; I pulled him away, waiting for the inevitable crying, certain that the tranquil nursery was about to end as the chord rang through the air. One infant was sleeping; the other was awake, watching in wonder.

            That seemed to be all the encouragement he needed! A second time he banged on the keys, as though he were Beethoven performing one of his symphonies. I saw the delight on his face as he played a “song” for our enjoyment. I looked back again. The other baby was smiling in sheer rapture. I permitted the young maestro to keep playing. Apparently pleased with himself, he attempted to climb the piano (this was not allowed and he was removed from the piano, but crawled back over to it in a manner of seconds). His passion for it was evident, his willingness to play evident, but he still has room for growth in terms of ability. He is not able to hit the keys in such a way that recognizable songs are produced, nor is he motivated to practice for hours each day to develop the skill of a concern pianist. Who knows? He may, at the tender age of eight months, have discovered a gift, raw, untrained, but a gift nonetheless (I learned later that musical inclination runs in the family). He may, when he grows up, become a musician, but at present, he is not able or willing to give an adult’s performance or maintain an adult’s dedication to playing piano. Like the infant, as a teacher I need to be like that infant: willing to “play”, the various keys that comprise the minds, hearts and wills of students, thus improving my teaching skills, even though to accomplished educators, my attempts are by no means comparable to what the experts can produce. But I must couple that willingness with an adult’s ability to stay the course and perform and an adult’s willingness to be dedicated to the task of practicing and improving (and not be sidetracked by another toy).

            We are called to be willing and able in our ministry, for Christ was willing and able to complete all that the Father required of Him. I’m reminded of what Philippians 2:12-13 reads: “So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, continue working out your salvation with fear and reverence, for the one bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort—for the sake of his good pleasure—is God.” As believers in Christ, we are given both the ability and the willingness to do His will, including praising Him through our respective ministries. Let us do so with the same passion and delight with which an eight month old “played” a piano.  

            We must ask ourselves: Do we have the same willingness? Are we willing to pound the keys with joy? Are we willing to take the risk that the music in our minds is not matched by the sounds coming from our instruments? As teachers, we all must start somewhere. But no matter how humble our efforts; let us all remember that we are all instruments whom God is still fine-tuning as we grow in our walks with the Lord.

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