by Abby Anderson, TCA Latin Instructor
This summer, while helping my mom sort through my grandmother’s books and papers, I came across her handwritten correspondences with Eugene Peterson and other notable writers and thinkers. As I paged through, a brief passage struck me, and it has stayed in the front of my mind as the school year begins:
“Soren Kierkegaard once observed that Christians are tempted to be like schoolboys who are given a math assignment, and who look up the answers to the problems in the back of the book before working out the problems. God has answers to all of our questions, and, I might add, very practical ones at that. But they must come at the end of having worked out the problem. If we seek them before or instead of working out the problem, we don’t really learn, and the answers take on the air of unreality.”
I felt the sting of this truth; how quickly I want the simple and straightforward answer to the questions I ask God. How deeply I want to know the end, and to be right. How easy it is for me to miss what the Lord is doing in the problems of my life, in the mundane moments that seem to lack clarity and purpose. I thought how often my prayers reveal my desire for the Lord to hurry up and reveal his purposes, to show me what he’s up to, to give me the answers!
I felt the analogy to schoolboys particularly helpful as we seek to educate our children and provide them a more robust conception of learning than merely getting that answer right. We long for them to be adults who seek the Lord in each problem, in the hard work, in the formation of our character that comes through perseverance and discipline.
In introductory Latin, there is ample temptation to flip to the answer key when difficulties arise. Simple tasks feel anything but easy as our brains carve out uncharted neural pathways to learn a new (and yet old!) language. We want to just see the answer, to look at the correct conjugation chart, to gaze on the perfectly aligned structure of the sentence diagramming in the key rather than muddle through the eraser smudges of our own efforts.
However, I am encouraged that as we walk down this challenging road of learning Latin together, God is at work in our daily efforts. The reality for most of us is that learning Latin hasn’t been a part of our educational journey thus far. What a humbling gift it is for us to ask the Lord for strength to persevere when the work is hard, and to ask Him to do this in our students as well.
And so we ask for His presence as we chant, make vocab cards, repeat grammar questions and review verb endings alongside our students again and again and again. We ask that he would form our hearts as well as our minds. We ask that he would give us much more than the right answers - that He would give us hearts that more fully image Christ’s. And instead of our answers copied from the back of the book which carry an “air of unreality,” might our labor and diligence bear the beauty of authenticity found in God’s eternal truth.