Monday, January 21, 2008

In The Zone

"When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, 'My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.'So Jesus went with him."

"A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, 'If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.' Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering."

"At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, 'Who touched my clothes?'"

"'You see the people crowding against you,' his disciples answered, 'and yet you can ask, 'Who touched me?'"

"But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, 'Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.'"

"While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. 'Your daughter is dead,' they said. 'Why bother the teacher any more?'"

"Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, 'Don't be afraid; just believe.'"

"He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, 'Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.' 40But they laughed at him."

"After he put them all out, he took the child's father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, 'Talitha koum!' (which means, 'Little girl, I say to you, get up!' ).

"Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat."

-Mark 5: 21-43 (NIV)

Peace and blessings,

As someone who is studying to be a developmentalist by trade, I've had considerable exposure to different developmental theorists. Of the many theorists that I have come across (Piaget, Kohlberg), the theorist that is the focus of this post is Lev Vygotsky. While reading a scholar's analysis of his theory and its application to education, I was struck by Vygotsky's notion of Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD, Miller, 2002), which is the difference between what one can learn or achieve on their own and what they can learn or achieve with the help of others who are (slightly) more advanced. I was well familiar with the notion before reading this analysis, but this I read with sort of a different lens (who knows, I may just be "coming up" with things just to say I posted something on my blog, lol). This around around, viewing youth in terms of ZPD sounded to me a lot like how Jesus viewed those he interacted with, and how he currently views us. Further, it was a sermon today I heard at an event at a friend's church (Harmony Missionary Baptist Church in Oakland, CA) that clarified what I was originally thinking when this topic came to mind months ago.

The speaker spoke from the above passage and focused on Jairus' interactions with Jesus. In a nutshell, Jairus approaches JC, worships him, and asks for Him to heal his daughter who is near death. As JC was going to his house, a woman who had been bleeding for seven years had touched JC's clothes and through her faith, was healed. Noticing that someone touched Him ("power had gone out from Him"), he turned around and asked who touched Him. By the time JC makes it to the house, Jairus' daughter dies. JC tells those at the house not to fear, but to have faith, and then He brings the girl back to life.

What stuck out to me when I heard the message is that I could have only imagined what was going on in Jairus' mind during this whole ordeal. What I found interesting is that Jairus sought JC out and worshiped Him before he asked Him to heal his daughter. This tells me that Jairus' faith in and knowledge of JC was such that he knew that Jesus had the power to heal his daughter. When describing the events immediately following his daughter's death, however, I didn't sense the same kind of certainty on Jairus' part. Not to say that I blame him, because after all, his daughter just died. I know in my life there are times when even small feats that have caused me to doubt Jesus' power (thank God for grace, lol).

I think Jairus' experiences are important to our understanding of Christ's love for us because Jesus' love for Jairus is an example of how, like Vygotsky's notion of ZPD, I think that we all have a zone for proximal spiritual development. Just as Vygotsky believed that children could learn and achieve more with the assistance of more advanced others, we can learn and achieve more with the assistance of JC and the Holy Spirit than we can on our own. Similar to this notion is James Gee's (2003) argument that to be a good educator is to educate students in a way where the demands (e. g. assignments, activities, tests) are on the edge of their students' "regime of competence," which is the students' level of knowledge. This way, the tasks students' face are difficult (i. e. on the edge of their regime of competence), but not too difficult that they cannot complete them successfully (i. e. it is still within their regime of competence). I think that Jesus understood both of these notions, which is why 1) He was and is so patient with His disciples and followers 2) He stresses practicing humility and relying on God and the Holy Spirit and 3) He tells us that through prayer, fasting, and communing with God, we can resist temptation, overcome the devil, and "shake some things up" in this world for the building up of God's kingdom.

Jairus shows us how our knowledge of and faith in Jesus is a progressive thing, such that insofar as we are connected with and following God, we will learn more about Him, and increase our relationship with and faith in Him. While initially Jairus knew Jesus as (and believed Him to be) one who prolongs life (healer), it appeared that he did not know Jesus as (or believed Him to be) a one who restores life once it is seemingly "lost" (life-giver). Once JC restored his daughter's life, this increased his knowledge and faith in JC so that it not only includes healing, but also restoring life. It was as if JC knew of Jairus' regime of competence regarding his knowledge of Him, and knew that just with some assistance ('Don't be afraid, just believe'), that Jairus could expand his regime of competence. I think for many of us, our spiritual development may follow a similar trajectory. If I have learned anything since seriously deciding to walk with JC, it is that my knowledge of and faith in Him was not "complete" once I made the decision. However, I have to continually learn about Him (through reading the word, "fellowshipping" with other believers, and looking at His track-record as evidenced in my life) and work on increasing my faith in Him. After all, this walk is a marathon, not a sprint. As a developmentalist-in-training, I really like the idea of constant growth and progression, and there is no better way to grow and progress than in knowledge of and faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

What do you think? Until next time, stay blessed, encouraged, and speekonit...

Gee, J. P. (2003). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy: NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Miller, P. H. (2002). Vygotsky and the sociocultural approach. In Theories of developmental psychology (pp. 367-419). NY: Worth Publishers.

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