Many of my fond memories have to do with fanning sparks as a tiny, struggling blaze was encouraged to become a fire with enough pizazz to warm you or cook your food, or sometimes just to give cheer on a cool evening. In earliest days, my family lived in an old rock house in Nocona, Texas, where the only source of heat for warming the body and cooking the food was a fireplace. Especially in winter, building the fire was an important morning ritual. During grade school years my closest chum and I often camped out. Fanning the spark of what we hoped would be a camp fire on which we could char the bacon and heat the pork and beans was a necessary activity still fondly remembered. So it evoked these memories recently when my brother, Joe, called my attention to a quote from J.N. Hook, Past President of the National Council of Teachers in England: “There can be no higher calling than that of the fanner of sparks!” My first thought was, “They know how to build fires in England?” The second was, “Come to think of it, that really is a profound idea!” A real teacher is a fanner of sparks.
The apostle, Paul, told the young preacher Timothy, “I put you in remembrance that you stir up the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands.” II Timothy 1:6. The foot note in the Bible I’m looking at says the Greek word translated stir means, to kindle into flame. How appropriate to think of our attempts to remain faithful and active as Christians as being an effort to keep a fire going. You continue to add wood, and when the flame weakens, supply the invigorating oxygen by fanning the blaze into a brighter existence. A fanned blaze goes like, well, wildfire. It’s very difficult to extinguish. As I write this a 23,000 forest fire is raging out of control because the winds keep fanning it! As Christians, we keep adding the fuel – the virtues, the fruits of the Spirit, the characteristics that make us Christ-like – and the blaze continues to burn and even brightens.
But we were talking about teaching. What picture could be more beautiful? See the intent, riveted look of the student, speaking of a mind as receptive as a sponge? It’s a mind ready to receive the message from God’s Word. And, to complete the picture, see the teacher, sensitive enough to recognize the spark that can be fanned into a blaze that will grow into eternity!
As teachers of God’s Word, this picture should take us out of the hum drum of feeling put on to have to teach a class into the excitement of being privileged to join the ranks of “a fanner of sparks.”
No student should be promoted from our classes without having been challenged to have as heroes the chief characters of the Bible. No student should leave us without understanding what it truly means to be Christlike and how this can be achieved in our crazy world.
It makes all the difference in the world if, as teachers, we realize that there is no higher calling than being a fanner of sparks.