I live along the coast in north central California and I have an orange tree in my front yard. It produces enough oranges to feed the neighborhood. One of the questions I hear frequently is, “Are they ripe?” To which I respond, “Some of them.” I’m sure this tree has a growing season, but at any given time you are sure to find a mixture of fruit that’s ready and fruit that is not. The greener the fruit, the less ready it is to be picked.
Everyone is a little green behind the ears sometimes. Have you ever been in an engaging conversation when the other person suddenly takes you seven or eight steps out beyond anything you have thought previously about the matter? Maybe the person doesn’t even realize they’ve pulled something out of their brain that you’re having to chew on. Then they notice the look on your face. “What??” “How did you get there from here?” That’s how it is with learning. Dots have to be connected.
A great college professor can connect students to dots beyond their vision. You come in, head full of mush, knowing nothing about the intricacies of Tort Law, thinking, “This is completely irrelevant to my major, but I’m required to take the class.” The lecture begins and you find the teacher’s passion about the subject contagious. Much to your surprise, by the end of class you see Tort Law through a whole new lens that makes it relevant and applicable to your life. You grew a little.
Not all teachers can do that. If the teacher is just killing time, you’ll get little from the class. If the teacher has no patience and tries to cram data down your throat without connecting it to you personally, you’ll spit it up and do as little as possible just to pass the class. If the teacher is pushing some personal agenda instead of letting truth speak for itself, when you catch on, you’ll tune it out like a bad radio station. If the teacher presumes you should know why the subject is relevant to you, he’ll trample over you and leave you eating the dust as the wagon pulls away. A good teacher has to connect to you, where you are, how you are, and make you want to go forward together.
A lot of people who are good at what they do cannot teach at all. Teaching is a skill in itself. Personally, I’m a far better writer than a discussion leader. It’s much harder to collate other people’s thoughts. But there is one thing I keep in mind, even if I don’t always apply it successfully: You can’t pick green fruit.
Early on, when I was learning to communicate the message of Christ, a point was stressed to me: Do not spend time tearing apart the faith of others, spend time building them up in the truth. The worst thing that can happen is that you successfully refute someone’s faith in a false teaching, but leave them without faith in something better to replace it with. A person’s identity and hope is meshed tightly to what he or she believes. If you destroy that, you may destroy the person. That’s picking green fruit. You don’t want to leave people rotting on the ground.
Occasionally, fast miracles happen. A person can have a dramatic epiphany that opens his or her eyes to deep truth that frees them from false beliefs previously held. That is rare though. Not may people jump from point A to point G without passing through points B-F. Faith, like understanding, just doesn’t work that way. It takes time to build a house out of it. You cannot force it, it’s a process.
“Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Matthew 11:15