Born for Adversity

Two freshmen boys approached me in the hallways.

They said, “Hey Mr. Browne, can we talk to you?”

“Sure,” I replied.

“We’ve noticed that Bobby has been to your office a few times this week,” they said. “Is there anything we can do to help him?”

This from the hearts and minds of two fourteen year olds.

Our school is still small enough that it is nearly impossible to repeatedly make bad decisions that result in multiple office visits without the rest of the student body realizing it. But by my lights, that’s actually a good thing.

Sanctification is a process that we are all in the midst of: some of us might further along, but we’re all far from the finished product that God has planned for us. This is certainly true for me, but also for teenagers, even those at The Ambrose School. The world puts incredible pressure on our teens to think and do wrongly, but we serve a God who has overcome the world, and as such through the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives our students can also overcome the world.

IMG_1087One of the ways this happens is through Christian community. None of us are an island, and through the constant process of iron sharpening iron – one brother or sister in Christ encouraging, exhorting, and providing accountability for another – we grow in maturity, character, and our love for Jesus and His Church. I get to see this process in the lives our students almost daily.

Proverbs 17:17 reads, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Adversity comes to us all in one form or another, occasionally through things outside of our control, but often from circumstances of our own making. It is our hope that The Ambrose School will be first and foremost a Christian community where students are surrounded by brothers and sisters in Christ that are there to support each other in the face of such adversity.

The poet John Donne famously wrote, “No man is an island.” This is especially true for us as Christians classically educated. May we all be surrounded by brothers and sisters in Christ on whom we can rely in times of adversity.

 

 

Love Thy Neighbor

I’ve become captivated by cross country meets. It seems to me that the entire sport is built around one’s ability to suffer well: “run three miles as fast as you can.”

The essence of the sport is to push your body to the very edge of utter physical exhaustion. Our varsity cross country coach (whom I know fairly well) has a favored saying: “if you get to the finish line and you aren’t bleeding, crying, or vomiting, then you had something left in the tank.”

I have my own saying, “There are two kinds of people in this world: those who openly admit running is miserable, and liars.” (I jest. Mostly.)

As such, the drama involved in a cross country race is compelling. Runners approach the end of a race and they are in the very throes of physical anguish. This makes crowd participation even more important than for most sports. Cheering for and supporting all runners up to the very finish line is essential.

However, cross country is like most sports: there is a wide chasm between the elite runners and those who finish last. As you might expect, there is always a huge crowd gathered at the finish line for the elite runners who are competing for 1st place finishes; when the last runners come through, which can be 10 to 15 minutes later, it is typically only coaches and parents who linger to cheer them on to the finish.

Sometimes they’re not even around.

At the district meet this past week, the varsity girls race was nearing the end. All but 2 runners had finished. The boys varsity race was ready to start, and virtually all the spectators had migrated over to the starting line. Mr. Velasco was headed that direction when he noticed the last two runners from a competing school struggling towards the finish line: none of their teammates, coaches, or even their parents appeared to be there to support their final struggle towards the finish line.

That’s when Mr. Velasco heard it:22519508_10154727157167331_5064391673815005944_n

“Come on! You can do it!”

“You’re almost there! Finish strong!”

“Good job! All the way home!”

Cheers. Love. Support.

A group of ten Archer runners – all Jr. High kids – had remained at the finish line to cheer the final two runners on to the end. Mr. Velasco may have been the only adult to witness it, but I promise you the two runners noticed.

22492017_10154727157202331_5846043773300361182_nMatthew 22:36-40 contains God’s two greatest commandments to us as Christians; the second of those states, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This cuts against the grain of everything our hedonistic culture tells us to do: “be yourself,” “do what feels right to you,” “have it your way,” etc. This is a hopelessly selfish and narcissistic philosophy, but it provides a powerful opportunity to us to be the lights of the world. When the world sees us first loving God and, out of that, loving them, they will notice.

Especially when that love comes at the very edge of misery, like at the end of a three-mile run.

The Light of the World

The Bob Firman Cross Contry meet is one of the largest high school sporting events in Idaho: 4,900 athletes representing hundreds of schools from nine different states plus Canada descend upon tiny Eagle Island State Park for a single day of running insanity.

Amidst such insanity, there are many moments for our students to shine the light of Christ to people they will not likely meet again. One such story came to me via text message from a friend whose wife works at one of our rival schools:

“At the Firman Meet – 493 middle schoolers – most chanting dumb things, singing songs, etc….”

I work with those lovable middle schoolers fairly often: “most chanting dumb things” sounds like an understatement. But it was the rest of my friend’s text message that was refreshingly rare.

“Then Ambrose chants: ‘God, Family, Team, Self! I have chills.”

There are two things about this story that I would like to draw to your attention. First, this is not something the Jr. High cross country team does in isolation: the idea that Christian rightly order what he or she loves so that the right thing is loved to the right degree is a regular part of our classroom conversation. The chant itself has its roots in a decade of Coach Hosier reinforcing rightly ordered affections to his varsity basketball boys: “The Big Five” as he called it, in order: God, Family, School, Team, and then Self.

The second thing I’d like to point out is my friend’s reaction to our runners’ prerace chant. It should surprise no one that he was emotionally moved by what is really a very simple thing. As the culture around us grows increasingly secular, the opportunity to be a light in a darkening world similarly grows. Something like a simple prerace cheer can become an inspirational moment.

Matthew 5:14-16 reads in part, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden….  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” At the center of the Christian life is the truth that the world around us will notice as we live our lives for Jesus. The Christ-centered life is in its essence counter-culture. As our students grow in virtue and mature character, they will necessarily be different than their peers; they will be lights in a dark world.

The light will shine in every place, even in the moments before a Jr. High cross country race: “God, family, team, self!”