Rockbridge Academy Blog
At Rockbridge we confess together that the primary purpose of life is to glorify God. In his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul instructs the believers: “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” As a Rockbridge athlete, the goal remains the same, we strive to glorify the Lord through our sport! As we aim for this high objective we will look, act, talk, and think differently than the world. People will notice. In his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul writes about Christians being the aroma of Christ:
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.
Rockbridge athletes have a different aroma because of their commitment to the team, because of the unity among teammates and coaches and because their identity is found in Christ. Imagine another team driving onto the Rockbridge campus and crinkling their noses as they sniff a few times asking one another, “Do you smell that?’ ‘What is that?’ ‘It’s different!’ ‘It smells like...Jesus!” As a result, fellow Christians will be encouraged by our conduct while non-believers will be repulsed, frightened, or confused. This opens the opportunity to share “the hope that is in you . . . with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
The Rockbridge athlete will start to smell different because he is fully invested in his team. Commitment is a virtue that is severely lacking in society. People are afraid to commit; many can only half-heartedly commit, or commit only to back out later. The Rockbridge athlete is expected to fully commit to her team for the entire season. That means buying into the coach’s program. Athletes should not question the coaches every time something goes wrong. Athletes should complete the season whether it is fun or not, victorious or not, going as planned or not.
My college wrestling coach said he measured his success as a coach by how many of his former wrestlers were committed to their wives and avoided divorce. At the beginning of each wrestler’s college career, my coach lays out the expectations and asks the wrestler to verbally agree to devote himself to the team for the next 4 years. This method has taught his teams many valuable lessons. Commitment does not change based on feelings; life will be difficult and it requires sacrifice but it is worth it! “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up,” as Paul said to the Galatians (6:9). Commitment should not be taken up lightly, but once a person commits, he should stick to it. In one of his parables, Jesus said:
For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’ (Luke 14:28-30).
The Rockbridge athlete will wear the fragrance of Christ by uniting with their teammates and coaches. This is where personal glory quickly fades in importance because the overall success of the team is more satisfying.
The Rockbridge athlete will wear the fragrance of Christ by uniting with their teammates and coaches. This is where personal glory quickly fades in importance because the overall success of the team is more satisfying. Every member of a team has a role to play and every role is vital. In this way, our teams should also help athletes prepare to be good and faithful church members. Paul compares the church to a human body, and we can use that same metaphor for a sports team. Paul writes, “there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable” (1 Corinthians 12:20-22). The lead scorer, the backup player, and the manager are all working to make the team successful and through their efforts bring glory to God.
Paul continues this metaphor in verse 26, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” I was blessed to witness that verse lived out as a member of my college wrestling team. First is an example of suffering together. In my sophomore year, two of my teammates, Matt and Mike, were both among the top wrestlers in the nation, but they were in the same weight class. That meant that only one could be the starter and wrestle for our team in the conference championships. In wrestling, the starters are decided by a wrestle-off, a match between the teammates where the winner gets the starting position. Matt and Mike had wrestled each other before and they had each beaten each other at different times. I was in the room for the wrestle-off, and it was a tight, well-fought match. Mike was able to pull out a narrow victory. He had just earned his starting spot, but there was no celebration. The room was silent and downcast as everyone on the team--maybe most of all Mike--was hurting along with Matt, his teammate, whose season and hopes of becoming an All-American were now over. A united team suffers together.
We also rejoiced together. During my senior year, I was one of two wrestlers on the team that qualified for the national tournament. In college wrestling, there are ten starting spots and we had about thirty guys total on the team. There were a lot of good wrestlers on the team. A handful of my teammates had even beaten me in matches before, but now their season was over, and I was where they wanted to be. I never felt any tinge of jealousy or resentment from my teammates but instead overwhelming support and pride. There was a large caravan that all traveled from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin to attend the national tournament and cheer us on like crazy, so much so that wrestlers from other teams commented on how loud and enthusiastic our cheering section was. A united team rejoices together.
A Rockbridge athlete will surely have the aroma of Christ when she knows, believes, and trusts that her identity is in the person and work of Christ. This allows the athlete to stop worrying about winning and losing. Rockbridge athletes are able to stay calm when the referee makes a bad call or the other team is not playing fair, and to not fall into despair from a season-ending injury. None of those situations change our value because who we are in Christ is secure no matter what. Galatians 2:20 tells us our identity: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
A Rockbridge athlete will surely have the aroma of Christ when she knows, believes, and trusts that her identity is in the person and work of Christ. This allows the athlete to stop worrying about winning and losing.
Embracing this truth as an athlete was such a relief to me. No matter what happened during a competition, the Lord still looked upon me as his adopted and loved son. God doesn’t think of you less when you lose and does not think of you more when you win. My response was to give my best effort and to praise God for the opportunity. I am not saying that Rockbridge athletes should not care about the results of a competition. The Bible encourages the pursuit of excellence. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it” (1 Corinthians 9:24). I am saying that as Christians, we are not defined by the results of a competition. Feel free to work as hard as you can, take risks, and go for gold. You will fail at times but it won’t break you. It just provides an opening to give God more glory.
This distinction of being in union with Christ takes precedence over any other identifying factor. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) This line of thought can be extended to our Rockbridge teams. There is neither varsity nor middle school, neither soccer nor cross country, neither athletes nor spectators, for Rockbridge is one in Christ Jesus.
When Rockbridge athletes are committed, unified, and secure in their identity they will bring glory to the God who gave them the ability to play their sport. We will know we are achieving that goal when the aroma of Christ starts to permeate the campus. Students, parents, and coaches should all be able to smell that a Rockbridge athlete is around, and not only because they have not showered yet.
Tim Stewart is our new Athletics Coordinator and Discover Summer Director. Tim works with athletic teams and coaches, scheduling and coordinating all practices and games as well as overseeing our athletic program. He graduated from Messiah College with a BA Health and Exercise Science.
VISION and MISSION
Talk to any business guru, and you will encounter the terms vision, mission, and values. If vision is an institution’s overarching reason for being, mission describes the work they do to achieve this vision. Meanwhile, values (often called core values) are the collective beliefs and behaviors required of those who partake in the mission and subscribe to the vision.
Is all this just pragmatic business banter? No. At its foundation, the vision-mission-values triad reflects the heart of God. If God himself had the vision to create a universe, set about a mission of redemption through His Son, while continually calling his people to live out the values of a kingdom, then we as a Christian school should emulate the pattern, both in form and content.
What is the vision of Rockbridge Academy—the intent behind why we exist—in the first place? What role do we play in this little corner of God’s kingdom? Space does not allow us to print our multi-paragraph vision script (Click here to find Our Vision. It’s worth the longer read!), but if I were to unofficially summarize the Rockbridge vision in a statement, I’d simply say it this way:
Rockbridge Academy exists to be a transformative learning community, graduating young men and women as thinking, compassionate, and intentional disciples of Jesus Christ.
Meanwhile, Rockbridge Academy’s mission statement brings greater focus to how we go about realizing this vision. If you look on our homepage, you’ll see a condensed version of our overall plan of action, stated more fully here:
To partner with parents in a distinctively classical and unwaveringly Christian education for their children, encouraging the pursuit of goodness, truth, and beauty in all of life.
Thus, confident in our vision to graduate thinking Christians, and having our mission set before us to do this through classical Christian methodology, we gird our loins in anticipation for the first school year unified on the Evergreen Campus as One Rockbridge. So far so good.
Nevertheless, just like Nehemiah surveying the walls of Jerusalem, tracing his way from tower-gate to tower-gate before proclaiming his intent to reset their foundations, it is worth tracing our way back through Rockbridge history to enumerate the core values that make us who we are. Faithful Jews surveying the wall that defined and laid claim to Jerusalem reflect the importance of rehearsing the distinctives that define our school. As a community then, we lock arms to proclaim to ourselves and to a watching world what it means to be part of Rockbridge Academy.
“There is not one square inch in the whole domain
of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all,
does not cry, Mine!”
CHRIST AS CORE
First and foremost, we acknowledge that our identity as a school flows from one person, Jesus Christ. We joyfully submit ourselves to his Lordship. We proclaim along with early 20th century Dutch statesman, Abraham Kuyper, “There is not one square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”
If this truth does not permeate all of what we do as a school so that our students grow up in the humidity of God’s sovereignty, all is for naught. When we gathered through the summer as staff and board to assemble the core values of Rockbridge Academy, the centrality of Christ was the refrain, because He is the source from which the following five values flow:
We joyfully mine the content and pedagogy of a tradition that edifies our humanity in its celebration of truth, goodness, and beauty, while equipping us to see the integration of all things under the lordship of Christ.
You see, the best way we’ve found to raise up thinking disciples of Jesus is to leverage classical education because it not only frees our children to think through the tools of learning (grammar, dialectic, rhetoric), it also captivates their hearts with truth, goodness, and beauty, and uniquely proclaims the unity of all subjects. All of this allows us to point students to the fact that all of life coheres under the Lordship of Christ.
We believe education is a command of God to parents, who actively partner with teachers to pursue Christian discipleship of their children’s heart, mind, soul, and strength.
We need look no further than Deuteronomy 6 in the Old Testament and Ephesians 6 in the New Testament to be reminded that it is the parent’s grand and humbling privilege to daily educate their child in the whole of life [paideia, Gr]. From academics to etiquette, tying shoes to reading to respecting mom, parents are entrusted with an 18-year (and further) discipleship program to grow up their children. Meanwhile, the school comes alongside to provide and reinforce what is needed through these years. Daily, parent and teacher shoulder together in this effort. Partnership is paramount.
MY LIFE FOR YOURS
We seek in every situation to empty ourselves with love for others, encouraging adults to mentor students and older students to mentor younger, with everyone learning to serve from union with Christ.
Contrary to our children’s universal aversion to emptying the dishwasher at home, we find that students love to serve. Young men and women long to be reminded of the masculine and feminine reality of the adults they are becoming. Boys love to demonstrate their muscles at work. Young ladies love to show their resilience and diligence. Entrusting both with sacrificial work in community answers that age old question they long for adults in their lives to answer for them.
Do I have what it takes? Absolutely, you have what it takes!
Do you see me? Yes, beautifully done!
WORK FROM A PLACE OF REST
We find our value and identity in Christ, measuring success by faithfulness, thereby encouraging habits of rest for mind, body, and spirit that fit us for our best work.
School, like any other aspect of life, can be a place where we as individuals—staff, student, or parent—pursue our idols. Idols around success create unrest in our hearts and lead anywhere from anxiety to avoidance to burnout. Rest acknowledges our human limitations, glories in God’s sovereignty, and helps us recall the limitless blessings of Christ. We want to be a school that reinforces habits of rest so that we are continuously restored to pursue our best work.
We prioritize love for one another by pursuing peace at the source of conflict, remembering that biblical peacemaking starts with self-examination, and that relationships are redeemable through the gospel of Christ.
Since its inception, Rockbridge Academy has put a high premium on the strong fellowship required in the learning environment, whether inside or outside of the classroom. The relationships between staff, students, and parents have opportunity to reflect the fellowship of the Trinity either beautifully or poorly. Sin is the reality that infects us all, yet the gospel is the greater reality that redeems even the most desperate breaches in relationships. Peacemaking can be hard work, but biblical peacemaking is essential to reflecting Christ as a community.
It is important to remember that core values are both instructive and aspirational. Core values unify us toward shared understanding and action, yet we acknowledge that even our best efforts to embody such ideals will fall short. Remember, though, that the author of vision, mission, and values is God himself. His sovereign intentions never lack for His abundant supply; therefore, we pray:
Dear Father, as we fully submit ourselves to the lordship of Jesus Christ, equip Rockbridge Academy to flourish as an enthusiastically classical community of learners dedicated to parental partnership, faithfully pursuing a relationally redemptive culture in which we work from a place of rest and serve under Christ’s banner of “my life for yours.”
If you have ever been backstage during a drama production you know that there is a lot more that goes on than what the audience sees. The stage, lighting, makeup, and costume crews are all working tirelessly behind the scenes. But just because these people aren’t center stage doesn’t mean they aren’t vital to creating the magic that happens. The administration and support staff at Rockbridge Academy are like the stage crew at a drama: absolutely necessarily but hardly ever seen. The central office ladies, Shannon Reich, Heather Reardon, Tina Thompson, and Tammy Rhodes are a few staff members that truly exemplify what it means to serve from behind the scenes. Without the hard work of our dedicated staff, Rockbridge Academy would not be able to function the way it does today.
Have you ever stopped to wonder how the stapler that saved your preparedness grade got into your homeroom? Or, where new books and sports equipment come from? Shannon Reich is the operations coordinator at Rockbridge Academy. According to Mrs. Reich, she handles “the purchasing and provides administrative support for facilities-related items and on-campus events.” She also does central office administrative work, fulfills all of the behind the scenes needs of Discover Summer, and checks on the school building after-hours and on the weekends. Mrs. Reich is a sweet lady who is not afraid to do hard work in order to serve those around her. Mrs. Reich does so much for Rockbridge, and she points to Jesus as the perfect example of how to serve others. She articulated that by using our gifts “in service towards others, Christians may also have access to unique opportunities that bring others to Christ.” Not only does Mrs. Reich employ her gifts to physically serve Rockbridge, she uses them to glorify God and bring others closer to Him.
If you have ever been through the Evergreen car line or received an Essentials email, you are familiar with Rockbridge’s Assistant to the Headmaster. But when she is not at the front desk or doing car line, Heather Reardon handles a multitude of other tasks. A few of what Mrs. Reardon tackles regularly includes handling hospitality events, assisting Roy Griffith and the Board, managing the hiring and interview process, and sending the Essentials and Headmaster Messages. It is difficult to pin down all that she does because Mrs. Reardon serves so many people on a daily basis in various ways. She says, “I want to serve them so that their life is easier and so that they can attend to the work that they need to attend to.” Mrs. Reardon relates that Rockbridge’s unique environment makes serving a blessing: “I think that it is really special that I have the opportunity to serve at Rockbridge Academy because I think it’s an incredible place where kids are learning about the Lord. So, to serve them, even to serve the kids in the front office, is just a privilege.”
“I think that it is really special that I have the opportunity to serve at Rockbridge Academy because I think it’s an incredible place where kids are learning about the Lord. So, to serve them, even to serve the kids in the front office, is just a privilege.”
As bookkeeper, Tina Thompson holds a job that is very much behind the scenes but nonetheless important. Dedicated to her work, Mrs. Thompson spends countless hours maintaining donation databases and the FACTS financial database, processing income checks and payroll, acting as a resource for employees with expense and payment concerns, and much more. Mrs. Thompson said, “as the tiny wheel in the back of the bus, I don't get a lot of fanfare but I am okay with that. It is just nice to know that the contributions God allows me to make are valued.” Although Mrs. Thompson is quiet and not often seen by students, she serves the Rockbridge community in many important ways. Mrs. Thompson said, “I am a steward of God's gifts and graces in my life, blessings that I believe God enriched and enabled me with for the purpose of serving.” She, like the other staff, desires to use God’s gifts to serve those around her.
Believe it or not, all the technology used to make learning happen, especially virtually, does not work by magic. Tammy Rhodes, Rockbridge’s IT Coordinator and Registrar, handles technology at the Evergreen campus, which includes troubleshooting, setting up, and purchasing technology, and communicating with vendors such as Verizon and Comcast. There is no pressure to be tech savvy when Mrs. Rhodes is around, she is always willing to lend a hand, whether that be fixing a teacher’s stubborn laptop or assisting remote students. As well as maintaining our technology, Mrs. Rhodes handles duties as registrar such as enrollment processes, transferring student records, distributing report cards, updating the school website, and much more. Mrs. Rhodes says, “It's not only important that I help/serve others but that I do it in a way that pleases the Lord and promotes His glory so that I may hear Him say those wonderful words, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’” (Matthew 25:21) Mrs. Rhodes humbly serves the Rockbridge community to glorify God.
Mark 10:43-45 states “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” The staff members at Rockbridge Academy strive to live out Christ’s perfect example of how to serve others. Undoubtedly, Mrs. Reich, Mrs. Reardon, Mrs. Thompson, and Mrs. Rhodes are all essential to Rockbridge’s success in and out of the classroom. However, they are not the only ones that keep this school up and running; each administrative, support, and faculty staff member works hard to make Rockbridge Academy a wonderful place to learn. Whether these staff members are center stage ready to take a bow or happy staying behind the curtain, they are all vital to Rockbridge’s success. So, the next time you see a Rockbridge staff member, say, “Thank you.” They are a critical part of what makes Rockbridge Academy so special.
Olivia Reardon, ‘22, loves to write and can usually be found reading a good book. She is part of a dance company and enjoys spending time with friends and eating ice cream.
“Unity is the great need of the hour.” [King, 1955]
As we commemorate the life and work of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., his call for unity rings clamorously with as fierce urgency today as it did when he spoke these words. Recent events affirm the chasmal divisions and prejudices that extend beyond and seemingly overshadow racial lines. At the core of all that separates and threatens to tear us apart is sin, and only in Christ Jesus do we find the cure for our malady and all that ails us.
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” [1 John 1:7:9]
Dr. King poured out his life in the struggle against racial injustice and all its implications, rooted in the belief that all humans possess intrinsic value because we are all created in His image. “The imago Dei is not a quality possessed by man; it is a condition in which man lives… established and maintained by the Creator… which constitutes him as him-whom-God-loves.” (Piper, 1971) It was on the basis of this “condition” that King vehemently appealed for the equal treatment of all people. “There are no gradations in the image of God. We will know one day that God made us to live together as brothers and to respect the dignity and worth of every man.” (King, 1965) Further, our inherent value is unchanged by any or all attributes that comprise who we are, including and especially sin.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” [Ephesians 2:8-10]
Without denying the gospel’s power to save from the punishment of sin, King submitted that a robust teaching and application of the gospel must also address the presence and power of sin wherever it exists. In other words, salvation is preeminent, and sin expressed in all its forms, such as injustice, are serious implications as a result. In Galatians 2, Paul rebukes Cephas and opposes Peter for drawing back in their fellowship with Gentiles and forcing them to live like Jews vis-à-vis dietary restrictions and circumcision requirements – making ethnic and racial identification a requirement for them to become children of God. While racism is not the prevalent theme in his admonishment, the division between Jew and Gentile (the origins of which were rooted in racism and ethnic prejudice) and the inclusion of the latter by the former was a central concern for Paul because it simply did not square with the gospel. Rather than replace our ethnicity, the gospel redeems it and gathers us as brothers and sisters in Christ into one family. In no other place do we see this unity (to which we are called) more prominently. Freedom and unity are inextricably woven within—that Christ died to set us free and unite us in and to Him. The gospel removes the barrier between God and us through Christ. It also removes the barriers that exist among His people:
“For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the hostility, which is the Law composed of commandments expressed in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two one new person, in this way establishing peace; and that He might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the hostility.” [Ephesians 2:14-16]
As Bryan Loritts writes, “The gospel is both vertical and horizontal. Truth must be firmly buttressed in God; without this, we are but a stone’s throw away from doctrinal error and spiritual malpractice. [But] in almost every letter, Paul begins with orthodoxy and concludes with orthopraxy, with doctrine and then duty, and much of the orthopraxy has to do with the horizontal accoutrements of the cross—how we relate to one another. The Bible knows nothing of a vertical reconciliation that is not evident in horizontal reconciliation with others.” (2018)
Charles Spurgeon expounds this point further: “Churches are not made that men of ready speech may stand up on Sundays and talk, and so win daily bread from their admirers. No, there is another end and aim for this. These places of worship are not built that you may sit comfortably and hear something that shall make you pass away your Sundays with pleasure. A church which does not exist to do good in the slums, and dens, and kennels of the city, is a church that has no reason to justify its longer existing. A church that does not exist to reclaim heathenism, to fight with evil, to destroy error, to put down falsehood, a church that does not exist to take the side of the poor, to denounce injustice and to hold up righteousness, is a church that has no right to be. Not for yourself, O church, do you exist, any more than Christ existed for Himself.” (1869)
So, what are we to make of all this? There is much work for us, the bridegroom of Christ, to carry out, and “we must not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” [Galatians 6:9]. I urge you to 1) bear each other’s burdens [Galatians 6:2], 2) listen to others’ stories that extend beyond your reality in order to understand rather than respond and 3) give yourself to concerns that are perhaps foreign to your experience. There exists as much hope as travail. I leave you with some of Dr. King’s words during his 1964 Nobel Prize acceptance speech:
“I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the "isness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land. ‘And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together, and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid.’ I still believe that we shall overcome!”
Johanna Smith is a member of the extended Rockbridge Academy community and wife of Stan Smith, appointed Rockbridge board member.
King, Dr. Rev. M. (1955). ‘Montgomery Bus Boycott Speech’, MIA Mass Meeting at Holt Street Baptist Church, 5 December. Available at: https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/mia-mass-meeting-holt-street-baptist-church (Accessed: 3 January 2021).
King, Dr. Rev. M. (1964). ‘Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech’, Oslo, Norway, 10 December. Available at: https://www.lwvhcnc.org/PDFs/43708MLK_Speeches.pdf (Accessed: 3 January 2021).
King, Dr. Rev. M. (1965). ‘The American Dream Speech’, Ebenezer Baptist Church, 4 July. Available at: https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/mia-mass-meeting-holt-street-baptist-church (Accessed: 3 January 2021).
Loritts, B. (2018). Insider Outsider: My Journey as a Stranger in White Evangelicalism and My Hope for Us All. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Piper, J. (1971). ‘The Image of God: An Approach from Biblical and Systematic Theology’, Desiring God, 1 March. Available at: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-image-of-god (Accessed: 3 January 2021).
Spurgeon, C. (1869). ‘The First Cry from the Cross’, The Spurgeon Center for Biblical Preaching at Midwestern Seminary, 24 October. Available at: https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/the-first-cry-from-the-cross/#flipbook/ (Accessed: 3 January 2021).
What do you have planned for 2321? Before you answer, make sure your mind hasn’t auto-corrected that number. The question is not, “What have you planned for the year 2021?”, but in fact, “What have you planned for the year 2321?” The question casts a vision beyond paying off the mortgage, finally taking that trip you’ve been saving for—across the country or around the world, beyond cleaning out the attic (oh, yeah, you did that during COVID), or reading “War and Peace.”
Well, if you don’t have a 300-year plan, the ACCS does. And you are already part of it. The ACCS is the Association of Classical Christian Schools. If your child attends Rockbridge Academy, or any other member school, then your family is part of a generational plan to change and redeem our culture, to restore Christian norms and standards that were once the hallmark of a flourishing society.
I got “on the plan” roughly 20 years ago when my husband and I first discovered classical Christian Education (CCE). When we joined the Rockbridge community in 2002, we heard often of this kind of very long-term thinking. At one school dinner, the story was told by way of illustration, of a group of oak trees planted at Oxford University for the specific purpose of providing new roofing beams in the dining hall centuries hence, when the trees maturity and the roof’s wear would dovetail in this ideal replacement plan. The story is considered myth by some, but even so, the illustration is no less impactful, especially for a community of believers whose God thinks and speaks in just such long terms. God promised to deliver his people out of Egypt after 400 years of slavery, and He sent his son, the savior of the world, into first-century Palestine after a 400 years of silent anticipation. For a God outside of time, centuries and generations take on a different meaning.
Former Rockbridge parent and board chair, Stu Caton, cast a similar vision of time before a group gathered at the Evergreen campus in October 2019 to celebrate the start of Rockbridge Academy’s 25th year. He told the group not to think of this 25th year, but of the 50th year and beyond; not of bringing their children to school, but of driving down Evergreen road to bring, or pickup, or see a history parade with, their grandchildren. Classical and Christian education is always about looking ahead, casting forward, looking to the horizon, expectantly “Look[ing] further up. . . further in” (C.S. Lewis) for the realization of God’s plan.
Which brings us back to the ACCS and your part of the plan. Consider your child[ren] generation one, if you will. Then look ahead two, or three generations. If you are convinced that your children are being uniquely educated to appreciate truth, goodness, and beauty; to think and speak clearly from a biblical worldview, all the while affirming the integration of all creation by God’s making, then you must thrill at the idea of being part of that legacy and seeing the legacy deepen and widen. And that’s why the ACCS exists—to see the growth of CCE and the kind of impact that will ultimately change our world.
If you haven’t visited the ACCS website recently, do it. Maybe you can already easily explain CCE. You did your research and ended up at Rockbridge following thoughtful and thorough decision-making. Even so, a visit to this website will give you renewed encouragement and stimulus about why you are here.
In practical terms, the ACCS is, “The primary public advocate for classical Christian education.” The organization offers, “a wide array of services that help build distinctive schools, [and]. . . provide accountability through accreditation.” In short, “The ACCS seeks to set an educational standard for a unified and directed approach to classical and Christian learning.”
But what makes classical Christian learning such a worthy pursuit? Read on to find out that progressives in the early 20th century set out to deliberately undermine our educational system and its classical Christian heritage. And the plan worked! Fast forward a hundred years and, “The ideas behind classical Christian schools are foreign to modern educators.” That’s because, “progressives worked to remove Christian ideas and purposes from the classroom.” But the ACCS affirms, and by extension, so do you, that CCE’s, “transformative power lies in one truth: Christ is Lord of all.”
So, “What does that mean for how we live? How we think about things? What we value and what we love? In short, education is primarily about what we are trained to love, not just what we are taught to know. Put another way, education is about soul formation, not information. And this formation builds a culture.
To further promote culture-building among ACCS member schools, the ACCS sponsors several contests and awards, including the Blakely Prize in Fine Art and the Chrysostom Oratory Competition. Rockbridge Academy boasts five Blakely and seven Chrysostom winners among its alumni, going back to the inception of these competitions in 2015. These students reflect not only the excellence of our teachers in instructing and cultivating an expression of truth, goodness, and beauty, but the students’ excellent ability to embrace and express these same virtues. The speeches and artwork are themselves are like redemptive cultural artifacts.
The ACCS does a host of other things, from training and certifying teachers, to cultivating relationships with like-minded businesses and higher educational institutions. They also host an annual conference called Repairing the Ruins, which our school participates in. The organization tracks and promotes the success of students in member schools, and has developed The ACCS Initiative, an effort designed and being implemented to expand CCE nationally over the next decade. When you do visit the ACCS website, I encourage you to read through the tabs under “About ACCS” and “What We Do.” Your own vision will be refreshed, and you will be encouraged about the real potential for change that you are making possible, through your own child, and generations beyond.
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
It is from these verses in the New Testament that our school motto comes: In captivitatem redigentes omnem intellectum in obsequium Christi. “Intellectum” is the Latin word translated in the ESV as “thought.” The Latin word also has the connotation of understanding, recognition, or sense. “Intellecti” are how we make sense of the world. We don’t always make sense of the world in well-fleshed out arguments and intellectual queries. Most often, our thoughts revolve around the happenings of our lives; our worries, excitements, milestones. The Rockbridge motto argues that these should be taken captive just as much as their well-formulated cousins.
The Paul of 2 Corinthians is no stranger to pervasive thoughts. I’m sure his worries often seemed all encompassing. Facing jail time and unfaithful churches, anxiety must have abounded. But these are the exact kind of thoughts that must be held captive, checked against the knowledge of God and shaped into obedience to Christ to find ultimate comfort and peace. God has promised faithfulness and love and such un-captivated thoughts deny those promises.
Starting a school year in the wake of the COVID pandemic ushers in a whole slate of new worries for many of us. Between distance learning and health concerns, we may be able to relate to Paul’s struggles and anxious thoughts better than we would’ve liked. However, even though we may continue to pick apart Plato, and see God’s fingerprints in calculus, if we do not redirect our worried and anxious thoughts to God’s truth and love, we will not wage spiritual warfare like Paul describes in the first verse. This process of taking our thoughts captive is a strategy on the spiritual battlefield. Doubts and fears can’t stand in our hearts when they are constantly compared to the standard of God.
This is often not as simple as merely recognizing worries and doubts for what they are. It requires us to consistently remind ourselves of the truth about God’s unfailing love and faithfulness. Meditating on God’s word must become a knee-jerk reaction to the trials we face. Belittling those trials is not a solution; the answer comes when we can recognize the true depth of our hardships and continue to remember that even the worst trials will never surpass God’s power and sovereignty. To deny suffering does not increase God’s glory. But He is glorified when we respond to our struggles by turning to His Word.
By taking captive our COVID-obsessed thoughts, we can compare them to the true Word. When they remind us to turn to the God who heals, we should root them fast in our hearts. When they wedge worry and doubt between ourselves and that healing God, we must learn to sacrifice them to our ultimate truth-giver.
Taking thoughts captive is a war-strategy the soldier Christian must learn to employ. The battlefield is their heart, and the prize is peace. As we shape our thoughts into obedience to Christ, we can strip our worries of their blinding control over us. If lofty opinions and strongholds don’t stand a chance, as Paul says, neither do our virus inspired thoughts.
This isn’t to deny the inherently worrying nature of the last six months. Trying to get a child’s education back on track after three months of impromptu homeschooling in the midst of a global pandemic is as good a reason as any to feel nervous. Not to mention the fears naturally built into a long-term state of emergency and the sickness and death surrounding us. But the Christian has the unique ability to persist against these kinds of thoughts during trial, because he can take them captive to a perfectly unchanging thing— the Word. As Christ is the Word incarnate, obedience to Him means accordance with the Word of God. That Word, that truth of God, doesn’t change no matter the number of new COVID cases or Paul’s prison sentence. If anything, the message of hope and faithfulness shines even more starkly against a dark and uncertain background. God asks us to bring our griefs, worries, and problems to Him, so He can solve them with His overflowing love and grace.
I think this is why 2 Corinthians 10:5 is the motto of Rockbridge Academy. The verse doesn’t only mean that the teachers and students pick apart academic conclusions from a Christian worldview, though that is critical. When crises mount against the community, peace will ultimately come when each of our most emotional and personal thoughts are also taken captive to the obedience of Christ. At root, this motto means that the administrators, teachers, staff, and students practice dedicating their worries, joys, fears, and opinions in submission to the unchanging truth of God’s Word, no matter the trial, even a pandemic.
Emily Marsh, '19, is excited to build the Rockbridge Blog to highlight the community that educated and guided her. She is now studying Economics at Hillsdale College, where she’s a captain of the sailing team and an editor of the Hillsdale Blog.
If you’re new at Rockbridge, you’re probably wondering what you should make of unfamiliar traditions, the infamous “graded discussion,” and those perfect students in plaid uniforms? Well, when we were transfer students, our questions were your questions. But as we’ve learned, Rockbridge Academy isn’t as scary as it might sound. Our school loves to welcome new students, no matter the grade. You might feel a little out of place at first, but don’t worry. Soon, you’ll feel like you’ve always been a Rockbridge student. Here are ten simple tips to help you get started.
1. Say Hi. Don’t be shy— say hi! Chances are, others will greet you right back. Introduce yourself to as many people as possible: Grammar students, teachers, and even upperclassmen! (We’d love to meet you!)
2. Meet a Future Classmate. At Rockbridge, new students are usually paired with another student in their grade. This Mentor guides you through your classes, explains Rockbridge traditions, and helps you feel included. Reach out to your Mentor and hang out before school begins. That way, you’ll already know someone on the first day! If you know another student from extracurricular clubs, sports, or church, talk to them as well.
3. Ask Questions. Both in and out of the classroom, someone might bring up a term, activity, or place you’ve never heard before. But don’t worry, no one expects you to know everything right from the start. There’s probably a classmate or teacher around who would be more than happy to explain it to you.
4. Don’t Be Afraid of the Teachers. Before you get to know them, the teachers might seem super intimidating— or maybe just super smart. Don’t forget: teachers were once students, too! They’re here to help you learn, and they want to see you succeed!
5. Learn About the Traditions. Captain’s Cup, Spirit Days, Variety Shows and Musicals. Rockbridge is a unique school and it has a lot of unique traditions as a result. Participating is a great way to meet other students, have fun, and become part of the community. Hopefully, we'll soon be able to pick back up on some of our events or perhaps we'll carve out some cool new socially distanced ones!
6. Get to Know the Classical Slang. If you didn’t attend a classical school before coming to Rockbridge, some of the terms we use might be new to you. Just pay attention to how these new words are implemented and don’t be afraid to ask a teacher or student if you are confused!
7. Take Advantage of Service Time Tutoring. On the doors of some Upper School classrooms, you’ll see brightly colored pieces of paper with “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on your next test!” blazing across the top. Take advantage of the free help from older students during service time.
8. Jump into the Graded Discussions. I know, I know, graded discussions sound intimidating. But at the end of the day, your teacher and classmates are there to help you. The best thing you can do is jump right into the discussion. You might not say all the right things—no one does—but once you’ve become part of the conversation you’ll find it much easier to participate.
9. Speeches Aren’t Scary! Speeches are important at Rockbridge, and they really aren’t as scary as they sound. Take a deep breath, present your piece, and ask for a teacher’s input afterwards. Your classmates have been presenting for years, and they still aren’t perfect! Learn to see speeches as a way to communicate, not as a daunting task that could make or break your grade. Plus, giving speeches in school will prepare you for job interviews, contests, and college!
10. Join in! One of the best ways to jump into the Rockbridge community is to join a sports team, club, or prayer group. Rockbridge also offers clubs ranging from Service Club to Poetry Club to Students for Life. These activities are all great ways to build friendships outside of the classroom, especially with students in other grades. Hopefully, regular activities will resume soon! We'll have to all be creative about finding more ways to connect!
Starting at a new school is daunting, but at Rockbridge Academy, current students make every effort to help you become part of the community. We strive to form relationships that go far beyond the classroom. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says that “two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow.” At Rockbridge, you will be surrounded by people who want to lift you up. When you walk through those doors on the first day of school, you are not only entering a new school, but a new community that wants to guide you and help you flourish.
Chloe DuBois, '21, is a military brat, wannabe Narnian, and daughter of the King on a quest to further His kingdom through her stories. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her poring over poetry, hoarding notebooks, and daydreaming about forests far away.
Olivia Reardon, ‘22, loves to write and can usually be found reading a good book. She is part of a dance company and enjoys spending time with friends and eating ice cream.
I’ve spent the last four years at Rockbridge Academy. These four years have been more developmental for my mind, character, and personal relationship with Jesus Christ than all the other fourteen years. In this time, I’ve developed a deep love for everything that makes up Rockbridge. The fact that my time at Rockbridge is over has brought me a sadness I’ve felt for no other earthly institution. But I’m glad that leaving Rockbridge is so hard, because if it was easy, I wouldn’t have had such a strong tie to the school and it wouldn’t have been able to affect me in such momentous ways. Rockbridge and I were mentally, physically, and spiritually involved with each other, and I reaped mental, physical, and spiritual benefits.
I love soccer. I’ve been playing for the majority of my life and it’s something that I really enjoy. Running onto a soccer field with a ball at my feet signals my brain to forget the stress of my homework or job or life and take a bit of time to refresh and reset. I played all four years at Rockbridge and in 11th grade, I was part of the team that won the playoff championship. Winning the championship set high expectations for my Senior year and I hoped to bring home the title a second time.
However, that was not God’s plan for me. As Proverbs says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Prov. 16:9) I had certainly planned my way, but God decided that something else was better for me. On the afternoon of September 24, 2019, I tore my ACL during a regular season game. That may seem bad, but it was actually one of the better things that’s happened in my life. I can assure you that the only reason I can write those words is because of the overwhelming grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and His blessing of peace in the face of hardship.
I remember laying on the ground in a fair amount of pain looking up at the puffy white clouds surrounded by powder blue sky and saying, “Well… I guess I’m not going to be playing soccer for a long time.” But I was at peace. Not physical peace, (my body was revolting against my brain by way of my nerves) but spiritual peace. In a singular instant, all of my plans disappeared, like a ninja who throws down smoke pellets in a movie and vanishes. But the newly created hole was not filled with depression and pain (as I’m sure it could have been). It was filled with submission. When I arrived at the hospital, people were telling me that they were sorry for me and they knew that this was very hard for me and that they were sure I was disappointed. But my response, that I attribute to nothing but the Holy Spirit was: “No, it’s okay, if this is God’s plan for my life then so be it.” I was, by no strength of my own, in complete submission to God’s will.
And God sustained me throughout the entirety of my long recovery. He made every single physical aspect of my daily life harder and in doing so, brought me much closer to His abundant love, mercy, and grace. He personally affirmed the principle that I had begun to write my senior thesis on: Christian joy is uncircumstantial. On September 24, 2019, God gave me a merciful gift.
Now, you may be wondering what my personal testament has to do with Rockbridge Academy. There are two connections. The first is that God has used Rockbridge to grow my faith and prepare me for life and all that it contains. I’m not saying that every student at Rockbridge will automatically become a faithful follower of Jesus Christ (because that is ultimately decided by God alone), but if there’s a school that is most likely to holistically develop children into sons and daughters of the living God, that school is Rockbridge Academy.
The second connection between my testament of God’s grace and Rockbridge is that the Rockbridge community reflected to me the love of Jesus Christ. The impulsive reaction of love and support that I received from the entire Rockbridge community represents what kind of community it is. From the instant I went down on the field, to the day I graduated from physical therapy seven months later, Rockbridge people have shown me great love. Rockbridge people went with me to the emergency room, some in the ambulance with me and some speeding ahead to get there before me. Rockbridge people, including the school headmaster, Mr. Griffith, came to check on me during my brief stay in the emergency room. Before I even made it home, Rockbridge people flooded my phone with texts, telling me that they had heard what happened and that they were praying for me. I knew that I had an entire community loving me and praying for me. And all this at a second’s notice.
The people of Rockbridge make up a community that reflects the love of Jesus Christ to all of its members and the rest of the world, and I am grateful in a deep way that I cannot adequately express, that I was able to have a share in it.
Zachary Reardon, ‘20, is a child of God who enjoys playing soccer, doing math and physics, and talking to people about God. He will be attending Drexel University to major in Mechanical Engineering.
Photo credit: Elliott Crane (class of 2019)
Author: Emily Marsh, class of2019
Emily is excited to build the Rockbridge Blog to highlight the community that educated and guided her. She is now studying Economics at Hillsdale College, where she’s a captain of the sailing team and an editor of the Hillsdale Blog.
Summary: Every year, Rockbridge Academy released a summer book list for her students. This year, these lists seem more critical than ever.
Across the country, families’ summer plans have changed drastically this year. In the wake of canceled sleepaway camps and postponed vacations, summer reading will claim its place more than ever as a critical defense against the creeping summer malaise. The Great Books broaden horizons when travel isn’t an option and don’t require any social distancing. Our literature department has compiled a list of some such books for the student body to tackle this summer; here’s a sampling of them:
- Amelia Bedelia — Peggy Parish
- Corduroy — Don Freeman
- Curious George — H. A. Rey
- Frog and Toad are Friends — Arnold Lobel
- The Garden of Abdul Gasazi — Van Allsburg, Chris
- How the Leopard Got His Claws — Chinua Achebe
- Madeline — Ludwig Bemelmans
- Mr. Popper’s Penguins — Richard and Florence Atwater
- Pippi Longstocking — Astrid Lindgren
- Shiloh — Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
- The Story of Babar — Jean de Brunhoff
- The Tale of Peter Rabbit — Beatrix Potter
- Where the Wild Things Are — Maurice Sendak
- Anne of Green Gables — L. M. Montgomery
- Chronicles of Prydain — Lloyd Alexander
- The Chronicles of Narnia — C. S. Lewis
- D’Aulaire’s Book of Norse Myths — Ingri and Edgar d’Aulaire
- Harriet the Spy — Lousie Fitshugh
- Hatchet — Gary Paulsen
- The Jungle Book — Rudyard Kipling
- Mary Poppings — Pamela I. Travers
- Matilda — Ronald Dahl
- Misty of Chincoteague — Marguerite Henry
- The Secret Garden — France Hodgson Burnett
- Swiss Family Robinson — Johann Wyss
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz — L. Frank Baum
- Tuck Everlasting — Natalie Babbitt
- King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table — Roger Lancelyn Green
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer — Mark Twain
- The Enchanted Castle — E. Nesbit
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn — Betty Smith
- A Wrinkle in Time, Series — Madeline L’Engle
- Alas, Babylon — Pat Frank
- Novels — Agatha Christie
- Hound of the Baskervilles — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
- Ender’s Game — Orson Scott Card
- Little Women — Louisa May Alcott
- Profiles in Courage — John F. Kennedy
- Gaudy Night — Dorothy Sayers
- The Lord of the Flies — William Golding
- The Martian Chronicles — Ray Bradbury
- The Scarlet Pimpernel — Baroness Orczy
- To Kill a Mockingbird — Harper Lee
- Treasure Island — Robert L. Stevenson
- Amazing Grace — Eric Metaxas
- Fahrenheit 451 — Ray Bradbury
- Frankenstein — Mary Shelley
- My Early Life — Winston Churchill
- Raft — Stephen Baxter
- Robinson Crusoe — Daniel Defoe
- The Lord of the Rings, Trilogy — J. R. R. Tolkien
- The Three Musketeers — Alexander Dumas
- The Music of Pythagoras — Kitty Ferguson
- The Source — James A. Michener
- Complete Sherlock Holmes — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
- How Should We Then Live? — Francis Schaeffer
- The Killer Angels — Michael Shaara
- Mere Christianity, Abolition of Man, Screwtape Letters — C. S. Lewis
- Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl — N. B. Wilson
- The Old Man and the Sea — Ernest Hemingway
- Things Fall Apart — Chinua Achebe
- Uncle Tom’s Cabin — Harriet Beecher Stowe
- The Chosen — Chaim Potok
- Isaac Newton — James Gleick
- Mathematics: Is God Silent? — James Nickel
- Autobiography — Benjamin Franklin
- Thee Confession, City of God — St. Augustine
- The Count of Monte Cristo — Alexandre Dumas
- East of Eden — John Steinbeck
- The Good Earth — Pearl S. Buck
- He Leadeth Me — Walter Ciszek
- Heart of Darkness — Joseph Conrad
- The Last of the Mohicans — James Fenimore Cooper
- North and South — Elizabeth Gaskell
- Anna Karenina, War and Peace — Leo Tolstoy
- Les Miserables — Victor Hugo
- Middlemarch — George Eliot
These books represent some of the Great Books, spanning many different eras of literature, that have shaped Western thought and informed much of its progress. Classical education depends on both looking around ourselves at contemporary works and on looking backwards to the great works that have come before. They may report ideas that deserve a meticulous perusal or describe a completely unfamiliar world, but above all else, they offer enchanting stories that have captivated many generations of learners and will continue to captivate readers.
Dear Rockbridge Families,
The past few months have been exceedingly challenging. The weight of a global pandemic, an economic crisis, and the re-imagining of “school” in an uncertain future felt heavy enough. But then we witnessed something weighty and tragic in a very different sense—the needless and unjust killing of a black man, George Floyd, at the hands of a white police officer. Such carelessness with life is unconscionable. But this tragic event—along with the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor as well as the video recording of Amy Cooper in Central Park —has raised the issue of racial injustice in ways that cannot be ignored, and the ensuing protests and riots have left our nation’s communities in turmoil.
As one of these communities, we find ourselves in a time of introspection, seeking how best to respond. First, Rockbridge Academy is embodied by the people, the relationships, and the work those people have chosen to do together. As a Christian institution, we know that Christ rules over each of his children, old and young alike, and right now his children are hurting, confused, and seeking answers.
Second, our common goal, expressed in Rockbridge Academy’s vision statement has everything to do with how our children will interact with and impact a tumultuous world. The first sentence of our portrait of a graduate is clear: “We aim to graduate young men and women who think clearly and listen carefully with discernment and understanding; who reason persuasively and articulate precisely; who are capable of evaluating their entire range of experience in the light of the Scriptures; and who do so with eagerness in joyful submission to God…”
Right now, our children are watching. If we fail in our example, we will fail in our goal. To the extent that we as a community are not compassionate, we compromise our values. If we are not thinking clearly or listening carefully before we seek to be persuasive and precise, we lose the vision. To the extent that we are not evaluating in the light of the Scriptures or submitting to their Author, neither will our children.
The compassion noted above requires humility, it requires the real sacrifice of listening and inquiring before speaking, and it requires that very tricky skill called empathy; mourning with those who mourn. As I mourn and process my own grief, it is difficult to imagine the depths of pain and sorrow endured by the mothers and fathers of black sons and daughters who have suffered injustice. Their grief, burdens, and anxieties did not begin with recent events; they’ve struggled with such things for decades, in ways I will likely never experience. What will bearing one another’s burdens look like for our community as a result of this reality? This is a question worth pondering together.
To those in our school community who parent African-American, bi-racial, or multicultural children, know that I am grieving with you. I will never fully comprehend what you feel right now, and I will fumble for the right words to say, but please know that you are dear to me—and to us. I have spoken with many minority families at Rockbridge Academy through the years and know that whether your ethnic background is African, Hispanic, Asian or otherwise, joining a school community that is predominantly white takes courage. Yet your choice for Rockbridge Academy creates the opportunity to celebrate the unity of Christ, profoundly enriching the impact of this education for everyone. We want and need you, and we want Rockbridge to become more and more the school that always feels like family to you.
Even in a community of earnest Christians such as ours, perspectives over “correct responses” to recent events vary greatly. Calls to action run the gamut. In such a confusing time, the unity we long for does not come through conformity to any one person or group’s standard. Rather, Paul exhorts us in Ephesians 4, “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,” to be, “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” May this be our goal as we pursue Christ together.
The beauty of this unusually fair Maryland springtime stands juxtaposed to the volatile series of events going on around us. Perhaps the Lord has slowed us down and tethered us to home to get our attention, that we can be still enough to listen and behold both His beauty and His holiness. May the Lord redeem this homebound time as He teaches us to reflect, to pray, and to consider how our future together can reflect the love of Christ in new and more profound ways.
In Christ Alone,
When people learn my dad is in the military, one of their first questions is, “How often have you moved?”
This question immediately stops me, not only because I have count—now up to seven—but also because it brings to mind memories of every place I’ve lived. I can almost see my friends, my schools, and my homes—all left behind in places to which I’ll probably never return.
Whether or not you’ve moved, everyone experiences change—currently called “Covid-19.” Rather than moving, we’re forced to stay at home in isolation. I’ll be honest—change makes it easy to become bitter towards God. I can’t number the nights I’ve laid awake in a makeshift bed, sobbing into my pillow and wanting to say, “Why?”
God, why did I have to leave my friends? Why wasn’t I able to finish the school year? Why can’t I go on Grand Tour, graduate, present my thesis in person, attend an awards ceremony, tell my teachers “Thank You”....?
Every time we move, I wonder what plan God could possibly have for this trial. And yet, despite my ungratefulness, he proves his faithfulness again and again, growing me in ways I never could have expected.
Here are three things God reminds me of every move—and even when I’m isolated.
1. God Sustains Me
Some days you’re happy, healthy, and content, so you see no need to ask God for anything. When you remember to pray, it’s usually a request such as, “God, let me ace this test,” as the test is placed in front of you.
Often we treat God as a backup measure to ensure our lives will go smoothly. We’ll pray to him when it’s convenient, or when we need a little assurance to add to our confidence. In times like these, God has become our last resort, not our first thought.
But when I move, my security slips away. I’m in a new place, faced with new people and new surroundings. I can no longer find certainty in myself, because half the time, I’m not even certain I’m okay.
It’s at times like these I feel closest to God. I’m forced to plead with him in prayer and ask for his guidance. And every time, he answers me. He draws me to himself and gives me a sense of calm only he can provide.
Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.”
What trouble are you facing right now? Are you struggling to get along with your family? To keep up with online school? To rest in God’s sovereignty?
Maybe it’s time we turned to God as our refuge and strength. How will we see his faithfulness at work?
2. God Answers Prayer
As a family, we keep a prayer journal. When we move, many of our requests reoccur: prayer for a house, new schools, or a gospel-preaching church. And every single time, God answers our prayers, usually in ways we don’t expect.
When we moved to Washington, D.C., we prayed for a house and got a home four doors down from a good public school.
When we moved to Annapolis, we prayed for a school and one year later found ourselves here, at Rockbridge Academy.
When we moved to Virginia Beach, we prayed for a church and were enveloped by a welcoming, Gospel-preaching community of fellow homeschooling believers, some of whom we still stay in touch with years later.
Every time we move, we’re faced with uncertainty over these basic necessities. But God always answers, whether it’s days, weeks, or months later.
Colossians 4:2 reminds us to “continue steadfastly in prayer,” even when it seems God isn’t listening.
The prayer notebook has helped me immensely. It’s incredibly encouraging to reread prayers he’s answered in the past. If you’re struggling to recall God’s faithfulness in your life, maybe consider keeping one of your own. Write the date plus “Covid” and whatever you’re wrestling with. Maybe a year from now, you’ll realize he sustained you after all.
3. God Has a Plan
If you grew up attending Sunday School, you’re probably familiar with songs such as “God is so Good.” Back then, it was easy for me to sing those songs and fully believe every word. But when I moved, God seemed to be the opposite of good. Would a good God rip me away from my budding friendships? Would a good God send me to my 5th school in 5 years? Would a good God take away everything and leave me lonely? It just wasn’t fair.
Or was it? When life seems unfair, when we’re stuck in isolation, sometimes we forget to recognize God’s sovereign plan.
Jeremiah 29:11 was originally spoken to the Israelites, God’s chosen people, during their exile in Babylon. But as Christians, we should remember its implications for us.
It says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
God is not promising to make our lives easy and blessed—far from it. Instead, through trials and tribulations, he promises to sanctify us and conform us to Christ (Romans 8:29). He has a plan for each of our lives—including yours. God wrote your story before you were born—even before the world was created. Instead of resenting his power, you can find comfort in it, trusting that his sovereignty and faithfulness will sustain you through Covid-19.
God’s Faithfulness in Our Future
Because of Christ, we are God’s chosen people (1 Peter 2:9). He rescued us from the exile caused by our sin and will one day return us to his Father’s kingdom, where we will praise God’s name forever and ever. Ultimately, Earth is not our home—Heaven is. And if you are in Christ, you can say with the Psalmist:
“I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ For he will deliver you... from the deadly pestilence” (Psalm 91: 2-3).
So next time you watch the latest news broadcast, remember God’s faithfulness. Remember that he alone is your sustainer, the one who hears your every prayer and holds your life in his hands. And though you might feel stuck at home, remember your eternal home, where you will reside with him forever.
Great is his faithfulness.
By Roy Griffith, Headmaster
"Formation of the soul–both mind and heart–not only makes us more human, it provides the ability to effectively discern and properly act on whatever data the world streams our way."
Few people recognize the name Claude Elwood Shannon. Born in Petoskey, Michigan in 1916, young Claude loved to tinker with mechanical and electrical things. He was known in the neighborhood for turning the barbed-wire fence that ran the half-mile between his house and his friend’s into a working telegraph, allowing the boys to send secret messages back and forth. Never mind flashing lanterns between bedroom windows like normal kids, Claude preferred his Morse code electrified, thank you very much.
As a teen, Claude worked as a messenger with Western Union (go figure!) but went on to earn dual bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering and mathematics at the University of Michigan. Moving on to MIT for graduate school, it was Claude Shannon who first connected the 1’s and 0’s of Boolean algebra to the simple “on/off” of an electrical circuit.
Shannon’s adaptation of algebraic logic to circuits was the theory behind the workings of modern-day computers. And it was Claude’s master’s thesis of 1937 that most people credit as the inception of today’s digital revolution. This ability to distill thought into electrical circuits not only revolutionized industrial economy of Shannon’s day, it soon overshadowed it. The Industrial Age of mass production into which the baby-boom generation was born has given way to today’s Digital Age of mass information.
It’s scary to think about how much digital information is created in a day. Just consider how many cellphone pictures are snapped each moment throughout the world, not to mention all the texts, emails, video, coding, etc… and this all made accessible to anyone by the internet. The amount of data circulating in the world boggles the mind. A well-known technology periodical (a digital magazine, of course) estimates that by 2020 the total bytes of digital data flowing through all the world’s circuitry will equal the number of grains of sand on all the shores of the earth… multiplied by 57!
It is easy to shake our heads in disbelief at such a proliferation of information. We might long for simpler times when barbed-wire telegraphs were a novelty. It is certainly daunting to consider how to prepare your grandchildren to deal with all of this information constantly available from so many glowing screens. How can anyone process it all? How can anyone possibly keep up?
"There will always be more information. The higher priority is formation."
The short answer is that no one can keep up with it all; and we must battle the lie that we have to. We don’t need bigger “hard drives” in our head to hold more data. What we do need, and what Rockbridge Academy is seeking to impart to this next generation, is the ability to think. There will always be more information. The higher priority is formation. Formation of the soul–both mind and heart–not only makes us more human, it provides the ability to effectively discern and properly act on whatever data the world streams our way.
Education that is preoccupied with merely stuffing children’s heads with information while insisting on constant access to more and more data is a failed education. That is why today’s common tactic of giving each youngster a computer screen in the classroom is a failed strategy. Yes, our kids can access a fire hose of data on the internet, but who is teaching them to think? Who is modeling for them what is worthy of their affections? Certainly, information is an important part of education, but in many ways it is only grist for the mill of training the mind and the heart to think, to love, and, finally, to act. So how might this be done? We believe the answer can be found in classical Christian education and the Trivium (the grammar, logic, rhetoric stages of learning).
In the grammar years, students receiving a classical Christian education are taught how to fill their minds with rich information, honing the young child’s already innate ability to memorize, categorize, and admire what is true, good, and beautiful. Scripture, poetry, song, chant, scientific taxonomy, stories of history and literature, are worthy grist for little souls.
Meanwhile, budding adolescents become adept at argument. God has wired them this way. Therefore, by training them in logic and debate, these minds are formed to argue well, and students are capable of pulling apart the information coming at them from all sides to question the logical fallacies they see.
The rhetoric years capitalize on an older teen’s desire to make a difference, and so the high school student is taught to draw together all he has learned, thereby forming his opinions into a persuasive, compelling case. Rhetoric students learn to be wise and winsome, to appreciate others’ arguments, and to acknowledge that there is a Truth, a Goodness, and a Beauty by which all information can be weighed. Through it all, we challenge them to examine what they really love and consider whether those things are worthy of their affections.
"Education that is preoccupied with merely stuffing children’s heads with information while insisting on constant access to more and more data is a failed education."
Because it is concerned with formation, there is something timeless about such an education. Ironically, Claude Elwood Shannon’s ability to think (without a computer screen) birthed the current digital revolution we are enjoying. However, he was a product of a very different era, where minds were naturally trained by mining information slowly out of real books, where the natural beauty of the Michigan countryside was not eclipsed by screenshots, and where character was formed by hard circumstances forcing you to make the most out of what you had–even a barbed wire fence.
Don’t get me wrong, the Digital Age is a gift from God. The question is, how will we use it? Will we be satisfied to lazily download information into our children’s heads and call the job done, or will we insist on the thoughtful formation of their souls?
A Charge to Laugh Well and Laugh Often
“Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth.” Ecclesiastes 11:9
Pastor Unthank was asked to give the charge at the end-of-year Awards Assembly. Enjoy his exhortation to laugh.
Have you heard that ancient Chinese curse which parents would proclaim on only the most disobedient of their children? The parent, looking at their bad kid, would proclaim: “O, may you live in interesting times!” Turn on the news and you may be tempted to think that that curse has finally landed upon us—these are interesting times we live in, to say the least.
But I think it’s more encouraging to point out that for every child at Rockbridge Academy, there is the blessing of parents who in the midst of these interesting times were concerned enough, in sending their kids to a classical Christian school no less, to have their children grow and live and participate wisely in such a cursed world. This is the world we live in, a world that is East of Eden. Fallen. And it is groaning as it waits for Christ’s final, all-encompassing redemption. While we wait, we seek wisdom—wisdom for how to live in these interesting days.
We live in an age of atomic power, but also under the threat of nuclear proliferation. It is an age of globalized trade but also worldwide terrorism. We enjoy the freedom of instant communication but we’re also extremely individualized, more isolated, more distracted. We live in a time of liberty and free association but crumbling relationships and confused identities. Our economy seems to be doing fantastic, yet the very fabric of our society seems to be ripping at the center.
I don’t want you to be overly-burdened by the Goliath outside we call “the World”—that is far too serious a thing to be thinking about as we head into the summer; and, as Peter Kreeft puts it, life is already too serious enough to be taken too seriously. No, Psalm 2 tells us that God, who sits in the heavens laughs, and if we are to be heavenly minded at all I think we need to laugh right along with Him. If that’s true, and I think it is, then we ought to laugh often.
So, my first charge to all of you is to make sure you spend your summer laughing—it not only prepares your heart for glory, but laughter is often the sound wisdom makes in the midst of a fallen world. Consider Solomon’s charge in Ecclesiastes 11:9, “Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth.” So, young men and women, obey God and go have fun this summer!
Of course, the very next verse says, you should know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. So, don’t get weird this summer. Just make sure you laugh and that you’re laughing at the right things. Your laughing should be good and beautiful and true laughter.
Hang out with your friends and tell good stories late into the night and laugh about it. Parents, chase your young kids around the house this summer and tickle them until the laughing hurts. Watch the funniest movies and laugh until your cry. Dads, this is your summer! Work hard and sharpen your dad jokes. They may not show it but, trust me, your kids are laughing on the inside.
Solomon tells us there is a time to weep and a time to laugh. And my prayer for you all is that this summer would be a sweet time filled with laughter. Good, godly laughter.
This is, again, just a small part of what it means to live as wise people in a fallen world. We can laugh because we know how this story ends—in the end God will wipe away every tear. Scripture does not say He will wipe away our laughter. No, we will keep on laughing with the God who created laughter.
When the Son of God became incarnate and Jesus began his ministry he was known as a Man of Sorrows; Isaiah tells us he was someone deeply acquainted with grief. And yet, he came eating and drinking, he was a friend to tax collectors and sinners and there is, to be sure, no greater incubator for laughter than the very human quality of friendship. The Pharisee’s must’ve hated Jesus’ laughter—it highlighted their own gloomy existence!
As followers of Christ—as the spiritual descendants of his redemptive work upon the cross—my charge for you is to walk boldly into these interesting times with a joyful heart, a heart that can still find time to laugh even in the ever increasing darkness that we call East of Eden. Consider Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who in the face of the greatest darkness the world would ever see—the crucifixion of the Son of God—He was able still to endure the cross and despise its shame. Why? Because of the joy that was set before him.
In Jesus Christ, our future is set—there is a glorious inheritance to be enjoyed, unending joy with Christ, laughing as we inevitably will be around the table and feast which Revelation calls the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
No matter how dark the world around us gets, no matter how interesting our era becomes, remember Christ and look forward to Christ and in him find true joy. Laugh well and laugh often!
 See Leon R. Kass, Leading A Worthy Life: Finding Meaning In Modern Times, (Encounter Books, New York,2017) p. 9.
 ibid, p. 9.