Last week Trinitas Christian School held its “Love Thy Neighbor – Great Day of Giving” event. It was only our second year for this event, but I hope it is one that Trinitas will continue and even build upon long after I am gone. About 250 students, teachers, parents, and alumni descended on the Pensacola community to tackle service projects that ranged from stocking food pantries and soup kitchens, to performing maintenance tasks at foster care facilities, to cleaning up neglected yards for the elderly. It was a great day, and Trinitas folks returned to school at the end of the day happy and blessed.
In my years associated with classical Christian education—as a parent, donor, school board member, teacher, and headmaster—I have had my share of conversations with folks who want to know why the standards for Christian character and academic diligence are so high, why our students read theology and philosophy and history and literature authored by people who have been dead for 1,000 years or more, and why we focus so intently on writing and speaking and debating. One good answer to such questions is that we do these things in classical Christian education in order to prepare students for just such a time as this.
I have often joked that when my family and I began the adventure of Christian classical education nearly two decades ago, I thought we Americans had invented Christianity in the 17th century. And while that is a bit of an exaggeration, it is no stretch at all to say that I was largely ignorant of my true Christian heritage. I was ignorant of the history of the Church and of exactly what my baptism made me a member.
Like good Christians everywhere, I had read and was reading the Bible. I knew that Christ was the Cornerstone of the Church, that the Apostles were the first elders and missionaries and Church Council. I knew of the Holy Spirit falling in tongues of fire on those gathered on the day of Pentecost, about the appointing of deacons, about breaking bread from house to house, sharing goods among the brethren as each had need, and of Paul’s many journeys to establish and strengthen churches and his subsequent letter-writing to them. What happened between then and the Pilgrims coming to Plymouth, however, was a bit foggy.
Do you expect your children to care for you in your old age? Or what if you get sick before you are old? What if you get cancer while your children are teenagers? Do you expect them to care for you then? How will they learn how to care for you? Oh, I don’t mean the business of dressing wounds or helping you up and down from the bed or the toilet. I mean, how will they learn the compassion, the true Christian charity required for such care? You must begin in them a root of selflessness.
It is a not uncommon occurrence: a mother slowly shakes her head and says to the father, “I just don’t know where we went wrong.” Something her child has done provokes the lament, and the provocation can range from bed-wetting to grand theft auto. The good news is that more children are guilty of something on the bed-wetting end of the spectrum than the grand theft auto end of it, and so things may not be as bad as they appear in the moment. The bad news is that they are sometimes just as bad as they appear—or even worse—and it is just for the parents to reflect on their work.
Before you get depressed and stop reading, trust me. My goal here is not to make you feel like a terrible parent but to encourage you from the Word and from my own experience with a lot of children and parents over the years—not to mention more than a little hindsight from raising my own children. Learn from where we (and others) went wrong, and maybe there will be fewer woeful sighs ahead in your parenting.
One virtue (If only it were the only!) that is conspicuously absent among good people these days is courage. Oh, I don’t mean to say it has totally disappeared. It crops up from time-to-time, and often just in the nick of time, in some surprisingly stout-hearted person who does the right thing regardless of the repercussions, who takes a stand for everything that is good and right when others who could and should do the same stand shame-faced, head-hung in the background.
But why? Why is courage so hard to come by? One reason may be that we think about courage all wrong. Courage does not come with being tall or strong or dense; it comes with practice. Winston Churchill is credited as saying, “Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision.” Like any other virtue, then, courage is something that we must, to borrow from the Apostle Paul, “put on.” We must first decide that we wish to be courageous, and then we must practice courage.
With increasing frequency I find myself consoling acquaintances whom I find shaking their heads and muttering about the world “going to hell in a handbasket.” In many ways I sympathize with these frustrated folk—look at politics, the media, the government, our Darwinian capitalist machine. One can hardly help wringing one’s hands over the state of the country, even the state of the world. But Christians have been given some instructions about the world, instructions along the lines of taking dominion and baptizing the nations and teaching them to obey Jesus. So let’s dispense with the handwringing, shall we, and get on with the business at hand.
Struggle is among the most important elements in the learning process. Learning a new thing—whether Greek, knitting, or fly-tying—is hard work and requires some pain if it is to be done well. Think of it this way: after learning something new, one is not the same person he was before he learned the new thing; he has undergone a metamorphosis. That process of change necessarily comes with some struggle and pain.