Mapping the geography of a student’s mind

We took in a lecture today that easily cleared the fence of our normal thinking (e.g., what’s happening where, and when do we eat?). The last five minutes dealt with social geography.

Most of you probably discuss social geography at the dinner table, but we’d never heard of it before. It goes something like this:

We all inhabit three places — physical reality (I am literally at the kitchen table); symbolic reality (I am near Detroit, or in the wealthiest zip code); and experiential reality (I am in a place where we often laugh). While we’re really only describing one place, the way we feel about that place and what happens there defines how we think about it. How it feels to us.

Our students live good lives by worldwide standards. We are people of privilege. But our students don’t always experience their lives that way. They may have everything to live for, yet despair of living. They might own the goose that lays golden eggs, but they walk around feeling squawked at.

Part of what we bring to our students is true social geography. Mental pictures that reflect God’s personal love, grace, blessing, and forgiveness. His glory in us.

It takes time to map geography. Next time you meet with a student, consider which view of his terrain you want to observe and describe. And always ask God beforehand to let you see from His vantage point. Then enjoy the scenery.

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