Feb. 28, 2019


“Remember the days of old, consider the years of previous generations. Ask your father, and he will show you; your elders, and they will tell you.” Deuteronomy 32:7

Visualization is an effective tool when working with kids or adults. Some of us learn by hearing. Others of us learn by writing. We are obsessive note takers. Most children learn by doing. It is vitally important that adults use visualization when teaching basic techniques. Math skills are learned best when counting objects. Seeing advanced math problems written out on what used to be a chalkboard, but is now a whiteboard, is effective. I was taught to read by sounding out words and pointing to each word as I read it. The pointing encouraged focus and prompted memorization for word recognition.

I had one of the most effective hands-on teaching experiences at a local church several years ago. A staff member stepped in for the vacationing senior pastor. The Associate Pastor handed out long nails prior to his sermon. Every person in attendance received a nail and was asked to hang on to it until instructions were provided. The Associate Pastor taught on the “Via Dolorosa,” the way of suffering. Simply put: the painful way that Christ endured man’s persecution, cruel torture, and an excruciatingly painful death. At the end of the sermon, the preacher asked each of us to put the long nail in our hands with the sharp edge facing our palms. He asked us to close our eyes and push the sharp point towards our palms. The teachable moment was to get a visual idea of what Christ endured.

Now there was no way to mimic the actual crucifixion without being arrested. There wasn’t any way any of us could understand the agony that Christ endured simply by pressing a sharp nail into our palm. The pastor’s purpose wasn’t to cause pain. The pastor’s purpose was to remind us to never forget what Christ endured for us.

The First Lady of Virginia used a visual teaching method when students of all colors visited the Governor’s Mansion touring the home and grounds. Her goal was to help them understand the agriculture of days past and the sinful practice of slavery. She used visualization, which required their imaginations. When teaching about both cotton crops and what was once slave quarters, she handed them a cotton ball and asked them to think about what slaves endured. Of course, in our offense-happy society, someone got offended.

I am obviously white. I am not black. I am not Hispanic. I am a natural-born American who happened to come from English and Scottish ancestors. When a pastor used visualization and imagination to remind us of the atrocities Christ endured at our expense, he didn’t care what color we were. His goal was to teach and reach. I suspect that when the First Lady of Virginia used visualization and imagination to teach a group of students, she was less concerned about their skin color and more concerned about them learning from the past. I typically stand on the side of the underdog. In this case, I believe a well-meaning teacher is the underdog. Good grief.

Hey, I wonder if Christ was offended when I pressed a nail in my hand many years ago as a visual lesson in His sacrifice? If He was, I suspect every Christmas pageant and reenactment of His crucifixion really hacks Him off. Perhaps if we would try to learn the lessons from the past instead of defending our feelings toward it, we’d be less offended and more motivated for change.