Faithful in Little Things

It was arguably the most important day of our school year: the entire gym was converted into soup packing production lines, and our students and staff were on target to package 60,000 meals to be distributed to needy families in our community.

But before any of that could happen, we hoped to point the hearts and minds of our school community towards God Who makes it all possible. We planned to do that with our first morning hallway hymn sing of the year, but there were some hurdles to overcome: Mr. Warmouth, our beloved Grammar School Dean who is so skilled at leading the hymn sing recently had surgery and was sidelined; students were in jeans and t-shirts for the Feed the Need day and as such were more restless than usual; and it was our first hallway hymn sing of the year, so the community was out of the habit of doing it.

Since so much was riding on the hymn sing, we had planned to have our student group The Boethius Quartet accompany the hymn sing. The group has been sacrificing their own lunch hour to gather and practice the hymn, and as of Thursday night was ready to go; however, come Friday morning, one of our seniors and the de facto leader of the Quartet, woke up ill and wasn’t able to make it to school. Her mom frantically tried to email and text Mr. Bryant and I, but the busyness of the morning had us unreachable.

The hallway hymn sing and our related goal of redirecting our students’ affections towards Christ first thing on our big day all hung in the balance.

Enter the remainder of the Quartet: the three did not panic, but instead took the responsibility and the initiative to solve the problem. Without needing direction from any faculty member, they recruited another talented violinist to fill out their Quartet. I wasn’t even privy to what had happened until well after the fact when I gathered the quartet together to thank them and they weren’t the quartet I was expecting.

Screen Shot 2017-09-30 at 8.06.28 AMThe hymn sing was the best I can remember in my seven years at the school, and the musical accompaniment was no small reason why.

In the Parable of the Unjust Steward found in Luke 16, Jesus says, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much.” This is an important educational principle that resonates in almost everything we do at The Ambrose School: if we can train students to be faithful in little things – things like wearing their ties and sweaters on formal days or processing into exordiums quietly, then we know that when God places big things before them – things ranging from organizing music on that most important day to remaining dedicated to their spouses in difficult times – they will similarly be found faithful.

Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, men and women of virtue and mature character are not formed in an instant. It is a slow and steady process of training them to be faithful in little things.

Despising Youth

It was 7:15 a.m., and I, still half-asleep, had just walked into the building.

“Chris, you’re not going to believe what is happening in my room!”

Mr. Velasco was obviously excited. While he is famously given to hyperbole – everyone knows this! – “Papa V,” as he is affectionately called by the Upper School community, is not overly excitable. I wondered immediately what was afoot.

“There are 12 Upper School boys – juniors and seniors – singing hymns in my room!”

As I asked further, it turned out that a group of male upperclassmen have been meeting in Mr. Velasco’s room for weeks to do a Bible study and sing hymns together. They meet first thing in the morning, and the Bible study is entirely student organized and led. The Bible study and hymn sing are led and attended by the leaders of our school: juniors and seniors, House presidents, and star athletes.

Every school has an “alpha male,” a student who sets the tone and drives the culture for the rest of the school. That student can be a force for good or ill; he or she can point students towards the True, Good, and the Beautiful, or away from those things. God is raising up young leaders who will use their influence to build His kingdom instead of their own, and this student-led Bible study is a shining example of that.

In 1 Timothy 4, the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy the following: “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity…. give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” It can be easy for older generations to despise the youth of others, but how beautiful and inspiring it is when young people take seriously Paul’s exhortation to be an example to older generations!

These are the church’s future leaders, and the faculty and staff at The Ambrose School feel humbled and grateful to be a part of their molding and shaping.

Walk with the Wise

It was one of those things that is so easily overlooked. It was Friday at lunch time, and The Providence Room was abuzz with students: a group of boys at one table, a group of girls at another, two boys sitting on the couches, and a table of girls out on the patio. It all seemed so ordinary for a high school.

However, if one took the time to notice, the scene was far from ordinary. A second glance revealed a beauty absolutely foreign to most schools: not one, not two, not even three, but all six tables were filled with juniors and seniors having lunch with 7th graders.

mentorshipPause and reflect on that for a moment: juniors and seniors were having lunch with 7th graders.

These were not only House leaders, but also other junior and senior students, all sacrificing their lunch hour and valuable time with their own peer group to invest into the lives of younger students: to pray together, to do a Bible study, or to just talk about life.

As those of us who attended one can attest, typical high schools are deeply segregated. The athletes hang out with other athletes, the cool kids hang out apart from the nerds, and the upperclassmen don’t go anywhere near freshmen, let alone junior high kids. It is an oppressive caste system that is at its core self-serving, demoralizing, and breeds all that is bad about human nature.

As a Christian community, our school is inherently different. We endeavor to be a school community walking together in the light of Christ. We want our students to walk out the Great Commission: to go out into the world and make disciples. This starts in our classrooms, our hallways, and in The Providence Room.

Proverbs 13:20 reads, “He who walks with the wise will become wise.” The Christian life is at its very foundation relational. Virtue is caught rather than taught. We cultivate an affection in younger students for Truth, Goodness, and Beauty by bringing them into relation with our older students, the wise leaders in our student body who are striving to live for Jesus.

One of our primary goals for all our students is that they become wise; in order to do that, they must walk with the wise.

The Praises of Men

In the middle of a meeting, my phone buzzed.

I have a semi-emergency. Please come to my room as soon as you can.

The text message was from our newest teacher, and it was one of those messages that, being so cryptic in nature, I wasn’t sure if I should be interested or terrified to discover why I was being so summoned. My initial inclination was towards terrified.

When the meeting ended, I hurried up to the classroom to see what was going on. The students had already changed classes, so I found the teacher in his room by himself. As I walked in, his grin told me it was ok to be more interested and less terrified. He proceeded to tell me a story about a foolish thing that one of our young men had done in his class. In the grand scheme of things, it was inappropriate but fairly harmless. It was near the end of the day, so I told the teacher I would pull the student out of class first thing tomorrow morning and talk with him about it.

I returned to my office just in time for the final bell to ring. I heard a knock at my office door and looked up to see, to my surprise, the student in question. I waved him in and greeted him as though I didn’t know anything about what had happened.

He said, “Mr. Browne, do you have a minute? I have something I need to confess to you. I did something really foolish in class today.”

I asked him a few questions, and he relayed the story to me exactly as his teacher had framed it. I praised him for coming to me on his own, and asked him why it was he did that foolish thing in class. His answer was profound.

proverbs-29-25“For the praises of men,” he said.

For the praises of men.

There is much to celebrate about this story – I mean, for the young man to come to me instead of making me seek him out is a beautiful thing – but it was his profound insight about his motivation that really stuck with me. Such depth of spiritual understanding is impressive for a teenage boy.

Proverbs 29:25 reads, “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.” Seeking the praises of men is another form of the fear of man; we seek their approval because we fear their disapproval. We want to be accepted, loved, a part of the cool crowd. That snare is tantamount to another form of slavery: we can quickly become slaves to other people’s opinions and expectations of us. Trusting in God, however, liberates us from such a snare. We are free to do what God calls us to do as we trust and find our identity in His great love for us, and not in the temporal, shallow, and transient views of men.

That a teenage boy is already figuring that out, when so many young people his age are clamoring for the praises of their peers, is a rare and beautiful thing.

Soli Deo Gloria.