My sister used to say that, when we were little, she never could understand why kids made such a big deal when they would fall or land wrong and get the wind knocked out of them. She said that she was so used to me hitting her in the solar plexus that, for her, having the wind knocked out her was a common occurrence, nothing to worry about. I don’t remember it that way, but maybe in my self-righteousness I’ve blocked it out of my mind. What I do know is that I would gladly give my life up for my sister, then and now. Even though we fought like cats and dogs as kids, and may disagree from time to time now, she is my flesh and blood, a part of me. I’d do anything for her.
Of all of the interesting phenomena in Christian schooling, there is perhaps none as interesting as the rivalry between Christian schools. We get so worked up at times, don’t we? Facebooking about that “other school,” getting so mad at athletic events that we get escorted out of gyms by administrators or security, being hypercritical of how “they” do things, or how their parents respond, or compare ourselves to them, we, of course, being the “white hats” and they being the “black hats.” And, we all do it. Parents of every school; ironically, or perhaps not, I hear it most often from the team that loses a sporting event. But, it happens all of the time. I don’t really know why we do it: whether we want our decision for our kids’ education to be so right that everyone else’s has to be wrong; that way too much of our value, our identity, and our worth is tied into how our kids perform for these school’s teams, as opposed to who we are in Christ, or whether it just gives us a break from talking about each other. But, we’re all guilty of it…
…until a mama and her truck full of kids from one of those other schools gets in a horrific car wreck. Until those kids lose their mama in that wreck, and another kid, a Ukrainian student, was also killed. Until I start thinking about my brother, the head of that school, who has to make that call to the Ukraine, waking a family up in the middle of the night to tell them that their son is not coming home. Until that entire school family is crushed by the loss of their people, and shocked by the impact on their school.
At that point, we remember that we’re not really rivals. Not really. What we really are is brothers and sisters in Christ, heirs to the Kingdom of Heaven who will live and work together forever in the New Earth and New Jerusalem, and who will eat together at the table with our Lord as one big family, along with that mama and the Ukrainian boy. We all lift our voices up to our common Savior and ask Him to bring comfort and grace and healing to those families, to provide strength and wisdom to those administrators. We mourn and cry with them, and we rejoice with them in the fact that we all have the hope that comes from the Cross, the only hope there is that ever mattered.
You know who almost always gets it right? Our kids. They joke with each other at the games, yell and scream, enjoy the rivalries to the fullest, and then walk onto the field after the game, shake hands, talk to each other, rib each other in friendship later on, and attend each other’s dances. We could all learn some lessons about rivalries and brothers and sisters in Christ from them.
So, give these sweet families your prayers. If they need help with medical expenses and travel arrangements and you can provide it, please give. Some of you have told me about plans you have to help, to come alongside, to bring support and encouragement. I love that about our school. Go for it. Be the Body.
Scott Pierce once told me at a football game against a cross-town rival, “Jay, we always want to make these things a morality play,” referring to the old medieval traveling shows, with presentations of clearly-defined good and evil, “but, really, there are no black hats and white hats. We’re all black hats. Jesus is the only white hat.” He was right, and sometimes it takes tragedy to remind us that, by His grace and love, we are all one big family. Maybe a family that argues and wrestles, but family. So, let’s go love our family well.