The sun is setting, and I have the blessing of sitting by the window. I’m staring outside at the stunning beauty of the sunset, the full spectrum of the rainbow reflected on the horizon, pinks and oranges and blues and indigos, all in majestic hues rising above the surface of a beautiful earth. As we race 24,000 feet above the earth at 518 miles per hour, I reflect on a skyscape that no one, no one for tens of thousands of years, had the honor of seeing. As I look on the ground below, I think about generation after generation of farmers, hewing his existence out of his sweat and toil, never imagining something so spectacular exists above him.
We live in a challenging time, no doubt. Challenging times wreak havoc on our hearts and souls, even those of us who love Jesus, even those of us who call Him Lord. And, yet. As I soar above the clouds, I see the majesty of an Almighty, beautiful God, one who called all creation into being, one who holds it all in place by His sovereign will, by His spoken word, by the child-like glee of His heart watching the sunrise every morning and the sunset every evening, crying out “Again! Again!” like a never-satiated child. As G.K. Chesterton said, our Father is much younger than we.
You may or may not know this, but being a head of school in a pandemic is no cakewalk. As I attended this conference, I heard story after story of struggling colleagues. Friends reflected how last year families were just grateful to be back in school. This year, it seems, they want to be back, but on their specific terms: with or without a mask, with or without the vaccine, and the like. And, everyone wants a different combination of terms, in a way that’s impossible to achieve. How a head of school responds to these things, often in the face of government opposition, defines in the minds of their families not just whether they are a bold leader worthy of leading the school, but whether they’re actually a true follower of Jesus, or a good follower of the particular family member’s political ideology, which sometimes seem one and the same. In talking to these men and women who are working harder than they ever have to keep their communities together, I can’t remember ever seeing a more difficult time to be a school leader, public or private, in my career.
We live in a culture that has vaccines. Our children don’t, for the most part, regularly die horrible deaths of things like smallpox, scurvy, and even the flu. We don’t plan to have 6-7 kids in the expectation that 3-4 of them will survive to adulthood, as those before us and many others in other places. We live in a time where, as preposterous as it seems, young people and others are actually choosing not to work, and still managing not only to survive, but to have a higher standard of living than for most at any other time in human history. We live in a more stable country than has ever existed, where power transfers every four years peacefully. We live in a place where the rule of law rules, where (although incredibly imperfect and in desperate need of reform) people actually have the opportunity to have a trial of their peers, not corrupt judges, where they are presumed innocent and not simply thrown in prison upon suspicion, which is what has happened in virtually every other era in history.
We live in a time where I can contact a friend of mine who is struggling in his mission school on the other side of the world, and yet, but for the God-created limits of time zones, could receive an instantaneous response from him (and that’s if I choose to email rather than call, at which point I really could contact him instantaneously, though annoyingly, in the middle of the night). We are able to send missionaries to all corners of the world, and not have them their coffins with them, like Adoniram Judson in the 19th century. As hard as it is to be in their positions (and it is) they can fly home, and stay in our mission house, and get counseling, and be refreshed, and be sent back again, whole and refreshed.
We live in a time when a horrible plague can be met with a worldwide response of communicating best treatment practices learned in real time, the rapid development of a vaccine (whether we trust it or not, the fact it’s here in this timeframe is amazing), the development of antiviral drugs that promise to ultimately render that same plague another annoyance, like the flu, all in the few years that it would have taken any generation before us to even realize that disease on this scope had spread far and wide.
We live in one of the very few times in history when we’re not digging in the dirt, thinking of our kids actually being educated and living any way other than we had for generations with the same probability as if we thought of them living on Mars. For us, education is not for the privileged few, the wealthy or the clergy, but an opportunity where any parent can see their children fare better than they, because of a massive number of options out there, from homeschooling to public school to charter school to private school to Christian school. We live in a time when families can actually afford these things, and where schools are set up to help them.
We live in a time when one-third of the world are followers of Jesus Christ, more than at any time in history. Where it’s predicted that in the next 20 years, China, the world’s largest nation, will be a majority Christian country. We live in a world predicted just a generation ago to be trending antireligious, now believed to be the most religious world the world has ever seen. We have opportunities available to us that were never available at any time in history.
I know times are hard. I feel them, too. I’m a head of school, leading a community through a pandemic. But, I’m emboldened and empowered by the words of historian Carl Trueman, who loves Jesus and learning: “Every age has had its darkness and its dangers. The task of the Christian is not to whine about the moment in which he or she lives but to understand its problems and respond appropriately to them.”
God has birthed us, called us, and equipped us to be His people, His light, His hands and feet in this time and place, and to raise the next generation to do the same. We are uniquely equipped to serve this place and these people around us now. God has given us greater opportunity than at any moment in history, and He’s given us the responsibility in this generation to be His city on a hill, and to get our kids ready to be the same, and with even greater opportunities. We should press into the Lord, lament where appropriate and necessary, then quit whining and get busy being His Body.
Jay Ferguson, Ph.D., Head of School at Grace Community School, writes regularly on his blog, JaysBlog.org.