As Spring approaches (I am still holding out hope that it is really coming), we are in that transition time for a school, where we live two years at once. Simultaneously, we still have nine weeks of class remaining on the 2013-2014 year, but are eagerly working on the details of 2014-2015.
Last week, we closed out our re-enrollment for current families, with over 95% choosing to re-enroll their children for next year. This is great news for school stability and future planning, and a reminder of God's continued hand of provision for HCA. However, as many of you know, the larger we grow, the more pitfalls we will encounter along the way. When you crowd nearly 300 families (over 1000 people) into an organization, there is a ton of human nature to monitor, including my own.
Hickory Christian Academy is a lot of things to a lot of people, and people choose HCA for a multitude of reasons. Some choose to leave for many different reasons as well. Such is the nature of a private school, and of a community of humans with needs at large. The only thing that is certain is that nothing is certain. However, regardless of the varying degrees of personalities, desires, and intentions from within our membership, and regardless of how many students we serve, and regardless of how big the school property becomes, we must keep the "main thing" the main thing.
This year has certainly carried its share of trials and challenges. To some extent, these come when you let your guard down, and become satisfied, which we are all guilty of at times. But, scripture is clear to tell us that trials are blessings from God which produce endurance in the faith, resulting in perfection and completion, where we lack nothing (James 1:2-4). God has a desire for perfect, unhindered fellowship with his people. Our sins get us off course, which lead to trials (places we don't want to stay very long) which cause us to reverse direction to find the path again.
In other words, if this school really does belong to the Lord (which is what we have been saying for 19 years), then He wants to run it the way He wants to run it. When we throw 1000 people in the mix, who all have their own plans and preferences, we often expect God to change his mind, and agree with each of us simultaneously. Not likely.
As God has molded me over the past several months, one message has been clear: Be careful not to leave your first love (Rev. 2:4) while pursuing your own goals and dreams. We are members of the largest private school in the history of the Unifour area of North Carolina. We have been phenomenally successful in college acceptance rates. We have been a leader in representing Christ to the community through athletics, field trips, and other public activities. We have been a very effective alternative to government education. I am very careful to write these things, because while they are true, the credit must be laid at the feet of Jesus. We have accomplished nothing apart from Him (John 15:5).
So, moving forward, what is the plan? Where do we go from here? Last Sunday at church, my pastor shared scripture with us that was unfamiliar to me, but hit me like a ton of bricks. In Jeremiah, 2:12-13, God says, "Be appalled, O heavens, at this, and shudder, be very desolate," declares the Lord. "For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water."
So, here is the picture...God has provided an endless supply of living water; water that will provide joy, peace, success, and life eternal. We can have all we want. We can drink it until we are filled. It will never dry up, it will never be soured, it will never be contaminated. It provides all our needs. Why in the world would we stop drinking from this fountain? The only answer would be our own stinking pride. Starting with me, we all have a pride issue to deal with. We all have an innate voice which tells us that maybe our plan is a little better than God's. Maybe, we really are self sufficient after all. Maybe life is more enjoyable outside of God's grip.
So, we leave the fountain of living water, and head out to find our own spring of "happiness". This spring might be financial success. Another spring might grant us the right college choice for our kids. Yet another seems to offer solutions to relationship problems. The tempting choices are endless. The problem is that instead of standing under the endless waterfall of God's blessings with our mouth open, we instead carry cisterns to the springs offered by the world to find satisfaction them. Unfortunately, these cisterns leak.
HCA provides an opportunity to fill many cisterns. We can provide a safe environment for your child, shielding them from many of the frightening things they might encounter in this world. We can challenge them with quality academics to strengthen their minds for the future. We can introduce them to the college of their choice. We can place them on a competitive athletic team, or a debate team, or a Model UN team, or in a quality chorus or drama program to broaden their horizons. We can teach them manners, structure, and rules. There are so many great things that kids and families can gain from placing their kids in school here. But as good and rewarding as these things might be, none of them will last for eternity, and none are even guaranteed to bring success in the short term.
Let me put it this way, suppose a child is a high school valedictorian, starting quarterback on the football team, and possesses a charisma and magnetic personality that wows audiences who hear him speak, act, or sing. Let's say that all this earns him a full scholarship to the elite college of his choice, where he continues to excel, and earn a degree in a high-paying field. After school, he is quickly offered a position in a big-time company, marries the former Miss America, and lives in a lake front mansion with his three well-behaved children. What's not to admire about that? Shouldn't he (and his parents) be thrilled and satisfied? Absolutely, except for the fact that all that success will eventually leak from the cistern. There is no guarantee that any of these things will last. As a matter of fact, we are guaranteed that they won't (I Cor. 3:10-14).
Over time, the star athlete will become old and fat (as will Miss America). His brilliant mind will begin to fade, his children will misbehave (trust me), and his money will be divvied out to others when he dies. All the cisterns that he filled in life (or that mom and dad filled for him) are cracked, and will finally dry out completely at the end of his time. This is not to mention the fact that he spent his whole life trying to fill these cisterns back up in an effort to maintain his unquenchable desires. The more cisterns he tries to fill, the heavier the burden becomes, until he ends up carrying a load that is ridiculously heavy, when all along God's stream is flowing for anyone to drink with free hands and no burdens to bear.
As much as this school has to offer, if it doesn't consistently offer Jesus to our children first and foremost, then it just becomes another stream where we fill broken cisterns as we try to manage the trials of life. That's why, from day one, we have been committed to an authentic Christian education. Sometimes we fail in this effort, while other times we succeed. But the focus continues to be the same. So, how will HCA handle its rapid growth? On our knees. What is the plan of action for growing the school from where it stands now to the next phase? Listening to, and following God's lead. What is the ultimate goal for a graduate of HCA? To know the Lord personally, and to develop the passion to follow Him faithfully wherever He leads. But, will my kid learn quality math, science, literature, and history? Yes, but with the understanding that these are leaky cisterns on their own, apart from the grace of Jesus Christ.
I guess it all boils down to this question...Do we really believe the Bible? If God says that His endless supply of living water is all we need for an abundant life, are we going to be willing to drop the broken water pot for a lifetime of drinking from the fountain? (John 4:28-29) I am saying all this to say that as HCA transitions to the next year of school, we are refocusing our attention on that which got us here in the first place. While everyone else might be searching for the latest educational trends, the most fashionable marketing tools, and the approval of men in general, we are going to continue to be satisfied in going against the grain and toward a life of holiness, because that is what Christ did.
The fountain is flowing, and I don't know about you, but I am thrilled that my sons and daughters get to grab a swallow as they pass through. HCA certainly has a long way to go, but don't worry about getting weary, because there is plenty of water to drink.