I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Rom 12:1-2

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Influence and Appreciation

This morning I realized one reason (not the only reason, but a very significant one) that God led me to be a math education major in college. Lately, with my new thoughts on education, I have really questioned the path I took through high school and college; but I remember clearly that the Holy Spirit led me to major in math education when I was just a junior in high school. Today I have a level of understanding I didn't previously have, thanks to this revelation (which came during praise and worship at church, as insights often do for me.) It still doesn't answer all of my questions, but I am happy to have this piece of the puzzle and wanted to share it.

I realized that God led me to be a math education major so that I could be discipled by a certain mathematics professor, Dr. Rakestraw, a true hero of the faith. From the first semester of my freshman year through my senior year, I was privileged to learn from this great man. I believe there was only one or two semesters of college when I didn't take one of his classes (very unusual, even in a small department like mathematics.) Dr. Rakestraw was a tremendous teacher. He held down a consulting job with a major oil company "to support his teaching habit." He was the real deal: a true mathematician, published original mathematics and all; AND he could explain calculus and linear algebra so that everyone in the class could understand (a truly rare combination.) But the real influence on my life was his walk with the Lord. Every semester he started the first class with "Axiom 1," as he called Col. 3:17, "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father." He would tell us that he believed in tithing, and not just money. He believed in tithing time, so in our 50 minute classes, we would give the first 5 minutes each day to God. In those 5 minutes a day (or 10 if he really got going) for the 6+ semesters I sat under him, I received about 24 hours of solid Bible teaching and character training. He would usually open his Bible and share something he had personally been reading or something that the Lord had shown him. Occasionally he would have a book recommendation or a story or some advice for us to follow, but mostly it was simply the Word and his thoughts on it. Those 24 hours have stood me in much better stead than the 240 or so hours of mathematics he taught me (although those were good, too, just not eternal.) In addition, Dr. Rakestraws life exemplified godliness. He was a man of integrity and was always soft-spoken, loving, and kind, even to his most obtuse students. He also demonstrated his belief that God had a plan for each of us.

As a result of his example for most of the six years I taught high school and junior high mathematics, I began each class in a similar manner (at least most classes, unfortunately I was less consistent than Dr. Rakestraw.) I pray that some of my words impacted my students the way Dr. Rakestraw's did me, but I KNOW that I got much benefit out of teaching a small Bible lesson 5 times a day to my classes (that was over 300 hours of teaching the Bible, even allowing for a lot of skipping!) It is true that the teacher learns the most, and God's Word does not return void.

Isaiah 55:11
"so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."

Dr. Rakestraw passed into the next life ten years ago and the world is a poorer place without him. I am eternally grateful for his influence and look forward to thanking him in person some day, but today I am going to write a Christmas card to his widow (thank goodness for the internet, I just hope the address is correct) telling her what I wish I would have told him when he was alive.

Thank you, Dr. Rakestraw, for your obedience to daily teach your students from the living Word of God; and thank You Lord for leading me to a university and a major that put me in the position to learn from such a man.


My boys said...

She will cherish your words forever!

Shannon said...

That was wonderful!