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a journal of analysis and comment advancing public understanding of religion and education
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Spring 2008
Vol. 35 No. 2

The Servant and Teacher: “Poured Out like Water”
An Essay on Teaching and Living1

Julia Kellman

The phrase, “I am poured out like water,” comes from the Twenty Second Psalm.2 The Psalm’s first half, where this line is found, is a lament describing personal suffering and a request for God’s protection against dire events and enemies; the second half is a praise poem. Even though I am neither suffering nor begging in regard to my professional life, those words stuck me during a recent service as a perfect image of how I feel as an art teacher and, I realized later, a person.

A day or two later I returned to those words, still moved by the sudden recognition of their personal importance. I asked myself what made them so immediately familiar, so completely descriptive of my sense of myself in the world, in classrooms, in teaching art. Now, after several months, I think I know why they presented themselves to me in such an intense manner and how they describe my life as teacher and as a spiritual being.

What follows, then, is my examination of the image of water and the lavish expenditure being “poured out like water” entails, for I have learned as I have grown older that such images describe the attentive, engaged life of attunement and charity that are part of spiritual living. It is an enquiry into when the process of such seemingly radical expenditure appeared in my thinking and doing; and it suggests what such a view of teaching and living might hold for those who similarly discover it.


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