More Than a Pious Wish: Living into the Story

It is nothing but a pious wish and a grossly unwarranted hope that students trained to be passive and non-creative in school will suddenly, upon graduation, actively contribute to the formation of Christian culture. —Nicholas Wolterstorff

Every parent and high school teacher prays that the years spent engaging in Christian education will have a lasting impact on the way their children and students serve the Lord. We want our students to see God’s story in the content they learn, interactions they have, and activities in which they participate; but even more, our deep hope is that our students desire to engage in the world in powerful ways that demonstrate their love for God. We want them to live into God’s story as high schoolers and beyond.

Waking Up to God’s Beauty

Roberta’s art students are living into God’s story. During the last year in her drawing/painting and graphics classrooms, students wrestled with the questions, “What’s worth doing?” and “What is beauty?” As the semester progressed, their definitions of beauty changed. They found loveliness in aged, wrinkled faces at Byron Manor, where residents wore all their joy and sorrow on faces that have seen eighty, ninety, or even one hundred years. Roberta’s students were challenged to tell the story of beauty in their drawings, the story of the beauty and wisdom in the people they met.
Grounded in transformative and curricular learning objectives, Roberta designed a formational learning experience that invited, nurtured, and empowered her students to do real work to meet real needs of real people. Each student was instructed to create a portrait of a Byron Manor resident that conveyed an authentic physical representation of the person as well as the essence of his or her personality. No small task, this required vulnerability on the part of both the Byron Manor residents and the artists. As they sketched and drew, Roberta’s students engaged in conversations with their subjects, getting to know them on a personal and deeper level. Many of the residents were lonely, and some experienced dementia, but the respect and care with which the artists engaged and connected was a blessing.

After weeks of work, the portraits were ready for delivery and were hung in the hallways of Byron Manor for all to see. A celebration of learning and an art reception provided yet another opportunity to connect and grow. One student reflected, “These days, I believe God’s beauty was inside me, flowing out through the evidence of my drawing. God challenged me in the project and helped me see his glory in the most beautiful, simple things.” And growth wasn’t just for her students. In Roberta’s words, “These students are reminding me—no, they are teaching me, how to live.”

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