I taught my son’s Sunday School class this week. It was The Dreaded Fourteen And Fifteen Year-Old Class. And I survived. In fact, it was pretty cool. I was bishop to many of these kids when they were baptized; maybe that’s why they went easy on me.
Of course we use the same manual and same scripture blocks in the youth classes as in Gospel Doctrine. I prepared but didn’t quite know what to expect. I probably over-prepared. (Ok, I certainly over prepared, but I was glad I did.) When I teach a youth class, I like to have lots of arrows in the quiver just in case I need them.
The lesson this week was on Paul’s second missionary journey. We looked at the maps of his journeys, and we had the kids draw a world map on the board so we could talk about to what “world” the apostles were carrying the gospel. We reminded them of the story of Saul / Paul (and they loved playing dumb about it…). We then talked specifically about how Paul had to listen to the spirit to know where to go on his journey, and that the spirit constrained him from going some places, and led him to others.
Then we read in Acts 16:14 about Lydia: “And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul” (emphasis mine).
We stuck on this idea of opening one’s heart for most of the lesson. We probably used that phrase “open heart” about three dozen times. We talked about what it meant to have a closed heart and an open heart. We compared the closed heart feeling to how the class members felt about their little siblings who had messed with their stuff or their rooms or told on them. We suggested the closed heart was in a box under the bed, in a safe, or in a Swiss bank account (all their ideas). We talked about how an open heart might feel different from that and how. And we talked about how they might open their hearts to spiritual things.
I remember being 15. It was like I was on the dark side of the moon, out of radio contact with spiritual things. Even though as a younger kid I was really tuned into what I thought was the spirit, at 15, I was aloof, and trying my best to be a little rebellious. I see the same thing in my own son, and I’ve seen it before. Part of my goal as a dad, as a bishop and as a friend to some of these kids, has been to do what I can to keep the gravitational pull of the spirit strong enough so that when they return from the dark side of the moon, they’ll be swept up in it and feel it again.
So we didn’t talk about Thessalonians. And we didn’t talk about Paul’s different missionary companions. And we didn’t talk about signs of the second coming. Frankly, most of the lesson was left on the cutting room floor, except for this idea of opening our hearts to the spirit.
By the time it was done, I felt pretty good about myself. Until I got home later and my son reported that I hadn’t done too bad. “Thanks,” I said. “What was the point of the lesson?”
He thought for a while. “Well, I drew a map of the world.”
Son: “And we talked about Paul.”
Me: “What about the point? That I said about three dozen times?”
Me: (moving my hands in an opening gesture)
Me: (still gesturing) “Open….”
Son: “Oh, open, uh, open…”
Son: “Oh, yeah. Open your heart.”
Radio silence? You bet. (Sigh.)