By Seton Teaching Fellow, Liz Knezetic
Experience can lead to powerful understanding in a way that words can’t fully express. An experiential understanding can be far more powerful than an intellectual understanding when it comes to faith. As a young adult, I have some vocabulary to explain faith and what it means to “dare your soul to go beyond what your eyes can see.” However, this is not and never will be full, whole understanding. Faith is rooted in experiences, the senses, the seeking of that which we do not fully understand yet we grasp for it innately. Knowing this, how am I to explain faith to my first-grade students? Their curiosity and desire to know is palpable. My disciples look up at me and ask questions about God such as “How can God live forever?” and “Will God go grey?” These questions seem so naive yet as adults, don’t we still wonder “Who is God?” and “How can I encounter God?” As a fellow serving in the South Bronx, where and how do I encounter God?
This experience of faith and these wonders have created these two essential questions for me. How do I encounter God? How do I explain faith to first grade students? In lesson planning, you connect your essential question of your lesson to your big idea. So, let’s backwards plan by starting with our objective. Objective: encounter God and teach faith. Essential Question: How can I do this? Big Idea: God is at work here, now and always. And that’s when I realize that my lesson plan stops here. The Big Idea has created my entire lesson, in fact, it answers my essential questions too. In recognizing that God is ever present, I can always encounter God. In living out this recognition, God will work through me and use me as a vessel to foster faith in my first graders.
I see God in the face of the disciples I serve. I feel God pushing me to learn more through conversations with my community members. I feel God working within me as I learn to balance my commitments during my year of service. God is here, has always been here and will always be here. The human spirit that flows in the South Bronx is how I experience God.
If you ask each fellow how they imagine God and how they encounter God, you would get 12 different answers, one from each of us. That is indeed, the beautiful expression of God’s creation. We all experience and understand God in a deeply personal way that allows us to be God’s light here and now in a way that is uniquely ours and radically needed. When we ask ourselves as adults the same questions that my first grade disciples ask me, faith suddenly becomes something more than a thought.
In fact, faith goes far beyond thought. It is the work of the soul. God has already written our lesson plan for us. Now, we must encounter God and be present to children who wonder about God’s hair color, adults who are fighting for the future of their children and for a community bound by oppression and judgment. I don’t know if God will go grey but I certainly know that God is at work here and that with faith, God is working through me. This is the work of a fellow.