This summer I had a “bucket-list” experience of taking a basic marksmanship course from Rob Furlong. He’s the former Canadian military sniper who held for a period of time, the record for the longest confirmed sniper kill in combat, at 2,430 meters. I was pumped at reaching the point where I was able to successfully hit six-inch targets at 600 meters. But more than that, I unexpectedly experienced the best “teaching” or “skill instruction” I have experienced anywhere at anytime. And yeah that is a huge claim.
Back in the days of the Bible, people often referred to Jesus as a “Good Teacher.” And by that they didn’t just mean that his content was good but that his delivery and his character made it “good.” The Apostle Paul writing to the Thessalonians described his personal teaching style as motivated by genuine love for others, so much so that he passionately imparted “his life” into his students, not just “the message.”
The biblical concept of good teaching involves not just competently communicating content or developing skills but lovingly investing your life into your students. While I’ve always known this, I didn’t expect that by far, my best example of teaching reflecting biblical values would come at the gun range.
I don’t know what Rob would think of me of lifting him up as an icon of a good teacher reflecting biblical values in terms of the teaching style of himself and his team, but yeah, that’s exactly what I experienced. Sure what Rob and the boys teach is not bible or faith. That’s not my point. The point is, they teach in a way that reflects a biblical style of teaching. Any teacher could learn from these guys about the art of teaching.
Okay that might seem like a huge stretch, but let me throw some thoughts out about my experience of the Furlong course:
- Right form stepping into the classroom on that first day, Rob and his team pulsated with passion. They love the shooting sports, and their love for the sport oozes contagiously out of them.
- Rob and the team saw the potential in each of us to do well. They took every opportunity to encourage us. Their ability to take anyone who was feeling a bit unsure of themselves and affirm their worth and ability was huge.
- When some of my “old man” muscles were not cooperating and I was having a bit of a challenge staying focused on target, Rob got right down beside me, and got right into what I was doing to figure out how to overcome what was holding me back. He literally looked down the scope with me and was able to give me insight that would come no other way. This was a critical turning point.
- When class and range time was done, the mentoring continued. Every evening Rob and his team invited us to the local BP’s for beer and pizza. This was a time to ask questions, tell stories, and just hang with some of the best shooters in the country. Some of the most important learning happened each evening.
- At the end of the course Rob gave each of us his cell number. Told us we could call anytime. Maybe we’d be in a gun store and not sure about a purchase, we could call and get an opnion. I mean how many people can say they have Canada’s top sniper on speed dial? And am I that open with my cell number?
- Expectations were clear and firm. Violations of safety and muzzle control would not be tolerated. They created a safe and secure environment in which to learn.
In the end the course was awesome because the instructors were awesome. I learned a whole lot more than just about shooting. I was reminded that who does the teaching and how they teach matters. That teaching involves not only delivering content but investing your life in your students.
I went into the course aware that Rob had experienced some challenges moving from the military back into civilian life. I had heard a couple of stories. This left me wondering exactly what I would experience in the course. I warned my buddy that we might need some really thick skins to learn from these military boys.
That was another lesson learned. One I should have already known. You don’t define a person by past mistakes paraded in the press. We all have black spots in our past. That’s not who we are. And whether we take the Christian faith seriously or not, we are all image bearers of God our Creator. It was just I wasn’t expecting to catch a glimpse of the image of God shining through a group of ex-military snipers.
As how all this will translate when it comes to the fall moose and deer hunt, remains to be seen.
(This post originally appeared in Fort McMurray Today, August 28, 2015)