An apprentice is a learner, someone who wants to develop new skills or enhance their current skills; someone who goes out and finds someone else who knows more, so that they can learn from them.
Real apprentices never lose the thrill of learning something new, of staying on top of their game and making sure they know the most up-to-date techniques.
But to be an apprentice you need someone you can learn from. There is something invigorating about watching someone showing you how to do something you have struggled with for ages, and making you see that the task was much simpler than you thought. Usually you let go a long, loud, ‘Ah, I see now!’
It is equally thrilling when you are able to show someone how to do something new. But what is it that drives us to be good learners? Who are the people we look up to and why do we want to be like them?
C. S. Lewis
Someone who has inspired me through every decade in my life is C. S. Lewis. I remember so clearly sitting in our primary-five classroom at the end of the day listening to our teacher reading a chapter from The lion, the witch and the wardrobe.
From the very first chapter I was hooked, transported into another world where it seemed things were so much simpler and clearer. There is something magical about the Narnia stories and, apart from the Bible, I think they are my most read books.
I devoured the remaining chronicles of Narnia, with the exception of The last battle, which I struggled with as a child but loved as an adult. There was something about the way C. S. Lewis wrote the chronicles that enabled me as a child to learn profound truths without realising it. I think it was because he crystallised them in such simple captivating stories.
As an adult, my mind would sometimes be pushed to what felt like its limits as I read his essays on Miracles and God in the dock.
In his writing he managed to make it feel like you could reach out and touch God, because he was that close, and at the same time I would feel overawed at how great God is.
An apprentice needs a desire to learn, someone to learn from and a basic ability to do the necessary tasks.
The hardest people to teach are those who don’t want to be taught. If we think we have nothing to learn, we will learn nothing. Contestants sign up for The Apprentice show because they want to learn how to become more successful than they already are. Well, at least, that’s what they say!
The proof of their real desire to learn is demonstrated as they are put through a variety of tasks, on which they work as part of a team. They are stretched in these tasks to allow Sir Alan Sugar or Donald Trump the chance to assess their abilities and get a feel for whether they are prepared to learn.
We can be learning to do something totally new or something better. Learning is about moving from where you already are to somewhere new. It means admitting you don’t know it all.
Sir Alan Sugar and Donald Trump have proved they have what it takes to survive the rough and tumble of a business world, in a financial and economic climate that is unstable and unpredictable. They have wisdom and skills to impart to those starting out on the road of business.
When we choose to learn from others, we need to know what kind of character they have and what it is that drives them. Do they have principles or have they built their fortune at the expense of integrity?
They can give you knowledge and show you how to do things, but what they can’t give you is drive. No matter who you choose to learn from, remember you are the one responsible for keeping the fire going.
They may give you the initial spark to get the fire started, but all the learning in the world is of no use unless you do something with it. We can have all the certificates that are going hanging on the wall, telling the world we can do something, but we need to be able to do it, to have the passion and motivation to not just do something, but to do it to the best of our ability.
There are people who inspire us to become the best we can be, because they have the ability to draw out the best in us. They encourage us; they see potential and are prepared to help us develop it.
I have been inspired by the biographies of missionaries like Hudson Taylor, Helen Roseveare, C. T. Studd, Isobel Kuhn and Elizabeth Elliot. In fact, I still remember the night I first heard about Elizabeth Elliot’s husband, Jim.
I was in my first year in university and someone in our Bible study read a quote: ‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose’. After reading his story, there was no doubt Jim Elliot’s words were backed up by his life, as were the lives of the other missionaries.
When I read these stories, I didn’t want to merely become like them. But I wanted to know God the way they knew him, to trust him the way they trusted him, to have my heart set on fire from the same source their hearts burned from. They chose to learn from the Master and there was no danger of being fired by him.
Who do you want to be like and why? Make a list of the people you admire; the people who move you in ways others don’t; the people who take you by the hand, like Andrew with his brother Peter, and lead you to Jesus; the people who aren’t saying ‘Look at me’, but ‘Look at him!’
If you want to be a successful teacher, you need the basic ability to communicate. To nurse you need the basic ability to care for people and not faint at the sight of blood. It is not just about drive and ambition, it is also about ability.
Jesus selected twelve men to be his apprentices. The ability he looked for was obedience, the willingness to follow and trust him. He took the disciples from different jobs and asked them to do one thing — ‘Follow me’. Jesus didn’t say to them, ‘I will tell you how to fish for men’, he said, ‘I will make you fishers of men’.
A time comes when the apprenticeship is over and the learner must become the doer. It can be a scary time when you do the job on your own. During my training, you were given more responsibility every year, but it still didn’t stop me being terrified the first time I had to do the job on my own.
What I discovered was that my boss hadn’t taught me everything I would need to know, but he had given me the skills to deal with most things I would face and that was far more important.
In the show Alan Sugar and Donald Trump only have one spot for an apprentice and they set tasks each week to help them decide who to give the position to. The passion and determination shown by the contestants to win the position is admirable.
Do we show the same passion and determination to learn from Jesus? Do we see ourselves as his apprentices? Jesus says, ‘Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls’ (Matthew 11:29).
© Dena Macleod