A graduation announcement arrived yesterday. It was from a location and time in the past, a student whom I’d gotten to know while serving as administrator of a Christian school a few years back. The student was graduating from the public high school he left in order to enroll at our private, Christian school. Apparently, things did not work out for him as he had planned.
When he and his parents initially visited the school, I didn’t think he was going to be interested in coming. Their reasons for seeking us out were more negative experiences with public school than from any real desire to be engaged with a Christian perspective of education. That’s not uncommon in a Christian school, parents often think we can work miracles and solve all their children’s problems. But this young man wasn’t seeing anything positive about coming. In spite of that, I had one of those small, inner voice moments where you subjectively feel that something is going to work out even if it doesn’t look like it on the surface.
Failure is perhaps the best perspective which keeps such inner-voice impulses in check. Even under the common banner of faith in Jesus there is enough divergence of opinion related to lifestyle, politics, personal opinions and subjective decision making to divide rather than unite people. Being part of a small class in a small school with daily interaction can be intense. This arrangement didn’t work out and after a while, the student returned to a public school, willing to accept the negative experiences there in order to finish high school than stick with his classmates in Christian school.
The class he joined was smaller than normal and had experienced more attrition over the years than some of the other classes. There were 30 of them in two home rooms in ninth grade, boosted by some new additions who contributed to both athletic teams and fine arts. By the beginning of their senior year, there were fewer than 20, mostly kids who had been around for a while. The newbies didn’t stick. One of the other boys who came and left around the same time, a very talented and conscientious student who went back to home schooling to finish, told me there just wasn’t anything to attract him back to the school socially or spiritually. He was an athlete who also enjoyed participating in the school’s plays and musicals. But he was teased because he was a suburban kid who dressed “G.Q.” There was a little more to it than that but not understandable at any rate.
There are those who interpret weaknesses in one’s faith as a lack of faith. They draw conclusions and judge a person’s spiritual condition as “lost” because they do not seem to conform to the norms of “Christian” behavior that the person making the judgment has determined to be the standard. Well, years and years in Christian school education has led me to believe that there are a lot of kids who are school aged who have uttered words we call a “profession of faith” but who don’t exhibit one whit of understanding about what those words mean. The young man of whom I am speaking here didn’t exhibit a lot of behavior that would be considered consistent with having made a profession of faith in Jesus. He had, but hadn’t been through enough discipleship to understand that there was a connection between personal salvation and personal behavior. The other young man of whom I spoke, the one who returned to homeschooling, did have a very mature understanding of how his behavior reflected his faith but he wasn’t warmly received either.
We are personally accountable for our own lives and selves before God. I know that. Still, I wonder whether following that “small, inner voice” in this case, and admitting this young man to school was a blessing to him or a curse. What if I’d said “no,” and he hadn’t come? And is there really anything to having the experience of subjectively making a decision when there’s not a clear objective conclusion?