I went to Carly’s “Meet the Teachers” deal last night. It’s a fine Christian school. Carly loves it. But I gotta tell you, the messages plastered around almost every classroom, gym wall and introductory remark gave me the willies. Stuff like-
- “Do your best.”
- “Character counts, keep at it.”
- “Work hard.”
- “Keep yourself disciplined.”
- “Be excellent.”
- “Every thought you entertain today forms tomorrow’s citizen.”
- “You can’t hear God if you’re watching the television.”
- “I don’t give out grades, you earn them.”
- “Nobody ever got anywhere without starting.”
- “Watch your morals, because others are.”
- “Keep raising the bar.”
- “Vigorous and strenuous effort brings the victory.”
There was about a hundred more well intended messages which all basically said: “Hey, we’re pretty convinced at your core, you’d like to eat chips on a couch all day in front of dirty movies. So we’ll keep bombarding you with these little slogans to keep you in line.”
What must the student be thinking seeing and hearing this day in and day out? “These people seem to think I’m always wanting to get away with stuff, that I’m always one step away from really screwing up. I didn’t used to think that was true. I really was enjoying God and wanting to live for Him. But these people seem convinced I wouldn’t do it without constant scolding or prodding. Maybe I’m not a new creature but still an evil slug trying to somehow get better and make Him a little less disappointed with me.”
There is also a copy of the Ten Commandments in most classes and spooky stuff about the Law everywhere you look. Some of these blips are, of course, true and good; but, they lack a context of appealing to their new nature. Even the administrators speak of the kids to the assembled parents with a “wink-wink” shared belief that we have all put our kids in a Christian school to make sure they are “kept in line”.
Such a way of teaching, educating, parenting, with all of its good intention, can accomplish at least these horrible outcomes:
- They learn to rebel. What they were doing out of a response to love, they learn to do out of obligation, compliance or reward.
- They learn to do this Christian life by the power of the flesh, not their new nature.
- They start seeing God, religion, Christian authority as just those keeping them from messing up too much. They feel controlled and never trusted.
- They see themselves as saved sinners rather than saints who still sin.
- They learn to hide what is true about themselves.
- It just doesn’t work. The kids get anesthetized to the slogans and just hear it as more “religious speak.” They learn to ignore and escape once they are free from such control.
What if a school dared to trust what God wants to do with each of these students by appealing to the new life that is within them? I know not all of the students are believers; but, imagine the atmosphere on a campus where the underlying message was not, “Hey, buck up and toe the line. You kids have been taking advantage of your parents too long and it’s not going to happen here.” Imagine if the posters and classroom emphasis carried these messages:
- “Let Him love you.”
- “He is there for you in your hardest moments and longs to hear your deepest fears and secrets.”
- “He enjoys you.”
- “Let your greatest laughter and playfulness come first to Him, who appreciates you and enjoys you more than anyone else on earth.”
- “Learn to live out of who He calls you on your worst day-adored, never disgusted with, always enjoyed.”
- “Believe that you are a saint, with a new nature that longs to do good and live pure.”
- “You are not the sum of your behaviors or your past failures.”
- “You are loved as much as God the Father loves Jesus. Now don’t run from Him when you fail, but stay close. He’s not angry.”
- “Stop trying to be excellent-He doesn’t want your excellence-He wants you to trust Him to let His excellence shine through you.”
- “Enjoy this day as a gift from His hands, specifically made before the world began, for you.”
- “Every event that happens, even the toughest ones that don’t make sense-He is turning into good. He loves you that much.”
- “Don’t be afraid, His arm is around you.”
- “Trust His power to overcome sin and break the power of temptation. Your willpower is not nearly enough. He’s longing to protect you and fight your fight for you.”
- “Discover other students who can stand with you, love you and protect you as you face the difficulties of each day.”
What if the teachers treated them as new creatures, with new hearts, God within them, fully loved and delightful to God, never disgusted with or condemned? The students might grow to respond as if it could actually be true. All the outcomes we so desperately long for, would come as a by-product.
This next generation is longing for such an environment and don’t even know how to ask for it. We must risk learning how to provide it for them-at school, at church, and at home.
…Then I can stop getting the willies when I go to these “Meet the Teachers” nights. Is that so much for me to ask?