Higher Purpose in Higher Education – Green Thumbs Are Not Hereditary
When I first joined OKWU staff 9 years ago, I wondered about the designation cohort for the groups of students in AGS programs. I did not understand the term, but soon learned that it was a common model in education. As I considered it, I realized the depth of meaning the etymology of the word provided. Literally cohort means growing together from the Latin prefix co- together and the root –hort growing; horticulture has the same root. Our students grow together within the cohort; they are “God’s field” (1 Corinthians 3:9), “His garden,” “His vineyard” from other versions.
This process involves hard work. Think of gardening or farming – plowing, tilling, planting, watering, weeding, harvesting, pruning, tilling, plowing, planting … the work continues, the cycle repeats. It is rewarding but demanding. One gets tired; the hands get dirty; the back, sore; but harvest time arrives and it is rewarding. As faculty, some will water, some plant, some pull weeds, and some harvest. In every situation, though, we trust God to give the increase. At times, you may not see the fruit of your labor; you may not enjoy the harvest. However, “… he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers” (1 Corinthians 3:8-9, NKJV).
For me, the analogy of education to gardening or farming has helped me in a personal way focus on my higher purpose. My father was a farmer. My mother’s family grew flowers in the Netherlands for exporting worldwide. My parents could grow anything. Our house sat nestled in beautiful, award-winning flowering beds. Three silver rose bowls inscribed with the names of my parents and “Best Garden in the City” grace my kitchen and attest to their gardening skill. Our pantry and freezer overflowed with homegrown fruits and vegetables. For years, I lamented the fact that my efforts to garden were fruitless. My dad would plant a rose bush for me in Tulsa or a few tomato plants. By his next visit, no evidence of the simple garden remained. I was a disappointment to my family.
However, after many years of regret, I was awarded my own “silver bowl,” an Award of Excellence in Teaching by the accreditation organization to which our college-prep private school belonged. In reflection upon this recognition and my mother’s passing just 4 months earlier, I came to understand that green thumbs may not be hereditary, but a passion to cultivate life is. I realized that indeed I had followed in my family’s footsteps. My life’s calling is one of a gardener planting seeds of instruction and inspiration, of life and light, into the soil of human hearts and minds. My students have been the “garden and vineyard and field under cultivation” (1 Corinthians 3:9, AMP).
As we explore the theme, Higher Purpose in Higher Education, determine what has God called you to do, what the Bible say about that calling, and what it says about your content area. At our last faculty meeting, Dr. Easley mentioned each of us becoming “theological practitioners.” We are practitioners – CPAs, business owners, managers, nurse practitioners, educators, pastors – serving our students, and as Christians, we are theologians. Theology literally is the study of God from the Greek words, theo (God) and logos (word, speech, reason). In the classroom, we are God’s messengers teaching the content from a biblical perspective that honors the primacy of Christ, that incorporates the priority of Scripture, that reveals the pursuit of truth, and that demonstrates the practice of wisdom.
It is an honor to be a co-laborer with God and with each of you planting seeds in human soil! Truly a high purpose! For we are fellow workmen (joint promoters, laborers together) with and for God; you are God’s garden and vineyard and field under cultivation, [you are] God’s building (1 Corinthians 3:9, AMP).