Discipleship and Studenthood

I took Latin for three years in high school
(Shout out to Professora Gutierrez & FLHS University Scholars)

It’s served my vocabulary very well.

One of the words that’s been on my mind since I came to grad school was “discipulus”

Discipulus is Latin for student, pupil or trainee..

When I looked at the word the first time, it looked like discipline but when I learned that it represented me — us, as students, I started to look into the only other word I could think of that was connected, it was “disciple”.

Disciple means student, follower, learner, devotee, etc.

Thinking about the latin root and the current usage of the word in my context, my next step was to look into the 12 disciples, whose stories I’ve read and studied my entire life.

Their names are: Paul, James, John, Andrew, James, Judas, Matthew, James, Nathanael, Jude, Phillip and Thomas.

When I think about the biblical disciples and my own academic journey, my reflections are abundant and twofold:

(1) What does it mean to leave your life behind and follow someone? What did it mean in the Biblical context and how does it relate to the global context of contemporary student-hood?

(2) If students/disciples are willing to leave their lives and follow you, (and continue your work after your death/inability), what are teachers and leaders willing to do to transform their students? Jesus used his teachings to transform and edify students (even changing their names), showing them charitable works, challenging the rules of the Pharisees and used their context and history as their testimony.

Most of the disciples could not write, they were fishermen. Many were despised for their past actions, countless faults and biblical discipleship. And yet, despite this, they have been able to contribute to the religious knowledge production that has become corporate worship. (Shoutout to womanist social change theory and queer womanist theology for the language of polyrhythms)

When I think about the discipleship and my own graduate education journey, I think there are a lot of important lessons even from the superficial level:

(1) Social pedagogy has been happening longer than Europeans and my professors posit

(2) Having an academic background is not necessary to be a student. Most of the learners were fishermen and later became fishers of men. Maybe their situated-ness and social location made it so they could reach the common person instead of the Levites

(3) Students sacrifice a lot following their teachers and yet there is a teaching CRISIS in higher education. A lot of students are taught to learn in lack and be grateful for fast food schooling instead of whole food education. Jesus not only fed the disciples, he fed the multitudes (Matthew 14: 13-21) (John 21:1-14). Praxis and access to the masses was key.

(4) Education is about transformation and edification. The teachings of Christ didn’t remain with the disciples. They didn’t remain in the classroom, the lessons were used to transform these 12 men so they could out and transform the faith.

(5) The lessons learned didn’t come easily and often came from ancestral interactions with the divine. For example, Jacob is the father of the 12 nations of Israel. Some folks believe the 12 disciples were the new leaders for the full renewal of the faith (12 nations = 12 disciples). If that’s true, I can intuit a very specific and important lesson from Jacob, a Biblical ancestor. Jacob struggled with a heavenly body (Genesis 32), breaking his hip resulting in a life long limp and a new name, Israel. His name “struggles with God,” shows me that his transformation was not easy but through his struggle and wound, he was blessed.

For me, these takeaways and lessons give me the strength to make it another day as a student in graduate school and as a disciple outside of graduate school where my education begins. It gives me hope that I may be blessed through this struggle.

It also shows me the importance of the teacher (a student among students) with students (who are teachers everyday).

Frankly, it gives me access to the pedagogical role models I have been desperately looking to learn from.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *