Even though my own children have graduated from Grace, as a head of school I still get to live within the cycle of the academic year. One of the great things about living within the school calendar is the freshness and renewal that each new year brings. Whether last year was the most challenging year ever, or “one for the ages,” the new school year brings an opportunity to recommit ourselves to what and why we have chosen to do life together. We are a community of value, not one of geography, but of choice. And, the new school year is perhaps the best time to remember why we chose this place, and these people, and this way of life.
Back-to-school season is the perfect time to remember what “teaching Jesus” is all about. At its core, “teaching Jesus” is discipleship. The most important thing we do as parents who are followers of Jesus ourselves is to disciple our children to follow Him, also. Jesus holds the words of life for our kids; He is the pathway to joy, and in Him they live and move and have their being. In Him they will find love and truth, and God gave them to us to lead them to Him, and to teach them how to live.
All education is discipleship. Wherever our kids are educated, they will be discipled, taught to follow someone or something. They will be taught a story, and that story will frame their entire lives, answering the questions of who they are, what their purpose is, what is wrong with the world, and where their hope lies. This story will provide the lens through which they view the world around them.
Some schools and people will educate kids with a story that teaches them that money, or power, or renown, or prestige is the answer. This story tells them that the purpose of school is to work hard so they can get into a good college, so they can get a good job, so they can make a lot of money, so they can buy a lot of stuff, or get these other things, so they can be happy. Other stories provide political answers: that a party or leader is their savior, and in following it or them, they will find their freedom and hope. A prevailing narrative in our culture today is what’s known as expressive individualism, the idea that the answer is inside each of us, waiting to be discovered, and hope or freedom lies in fully manifesting ourselves.
You don’t have to achieve much success to realize that the bar just keeps getting higher, and that no matter what you achieve, you think a little more will give you the happiness that still eludes you. You don’t have to put your support behind many political groups or leaders to be let down enough times to realize that human nature is, well, human, and that it’s a shaky foundation for our hopes and dreams. And, all of us are so deeply fractured and messed up to begin with that fully manifesting ourselves is a terrifying prospect, that our capacity to deceive ourselves is vast, and that there’s not much hope in finding a lot of truth within us.
At Grace, we disciple kids in the only narrative that provides satisfying, honest answers to all the big questions of life: the gospel of Jesus Christ. We educate them within the framework of what God is doing in the world, and among His people. They learn that they are His beloved children in whom God is well pleased; that through the sin and brokenness of humans, and our own sin, we were separated from God; that God lovingly rescued us from separation from Him through the sacrifice of His Son, made it possible for us to be reconciled to Him, and allowed us to be restored to our rightful place as His sons and daughters. Our role is to enjoy Him, bringing care and healing for others and His creation now, and walking alongside and rule with Him in the New Earth and New Jerusalem at the end of time.
This is the only story, the only basis for discipleship that doesn’t just moralize and tell kids what they should and shouldn’t do or believe, but roots concepts like holiness, kindness, and goodness in the very nature of God’s character, and who they are as people who bear God’s image. This is the narrative that provides a true foundation for what sex and sexual identity was intended to be, not rooted in someone’s opinion or political perspective, but in the very creational norms by which a loving God set us into being, and made us to flourish. This is the only true explanation for why we should appreciate the differences in each other, going through the hard work of loving each other well, all the while celebrating the transcendent unity this story provides. And, only this account gives us hope and meaning for our lives, even when we are in deep pain, and trial, and suffering.
Teaching Jesus means giving our kids a greater sense of who they are, of their true purpose, of how the world is broken and will be made whole, and their role in that great redemption story than any other. These truly are words of life, and they will learn it here, through the joys and struggles, and happiness and pain of school, as you and we walk alongside them together. This is our great “why,” who we are as a school community. We may like lots of things about this school–a strong academic program, great teachers and coaches, friends who will love our kids well–but the story is what holds us together.