Why Love? A Reflection on our Ten Year Anniversary

IMG_5512“Why love, if losing hurts so much? I have no answers anymore: only the life I have lived. Twice in that life I’ve been given the choice: as a boy and as a man. The boy chose safety, the man chooses suffering. The pain now is part of the happiness then. That’s the deal.” – C.S. Lewis

This week leading up to our amazing 10-year anniversary celebration has been a week filled with late nights, work, and contemplation. I spent many hours this week putting together an iMovie with pictures from the past ten years, many of which I remember as if they were taken yesterday. There was so much raw memory- so many moments of great joy and hope, but also photos of families who were once a part of our school who have moved on to other places and whom I still miss. Then there were the faces of young children who are now still with us thriving in the high school, loyal families and loving families who have woven deep and lasting threads into the fabric of our school. Looking at this year’s new faces filled with so much joy and hope, I was filled with the weight of responsibility that comes with the deep trust these families put in our school to educate their children, not just about mathematics, spelling, or the location of Paraguay on a map, but about deeper things like kindness, forgiveness, mercy, and love. I pray we never lose that singular focus as a school.

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Friday night I came to see the high school students present a play with excerpts from the works of C.S. Lewis and a scene from Shadowlands, about his relationship with Joy Gresham, the woman who became his wife somewhat late in his life and who died of cancer. It was very powerfully done and moving, and I wept watching as Allie who played Joy told Jack (C.S. Lewis) played by Josh Scott, that the pain now is part of the joy before. They shared a glimpse of the playfulness and love these two had for one another. These students were sharing a depth of truth far beyond their years and life experience. In some ways, I want to shield them from the reality of such hard things. I want them to have a magical childhood, filled with wonder and joy. But alongside that come the hard things too, things for which they must be prepared lest they believe their faith to be based on a lie when hard things come. And ultimately we want them to know that only God can satisfy. We want them to know that lesser things do not cut it. As Laura Story writes in her song, “Blessings,” “You Love us way too much to give us lesser things.” Everything other than Him is a lesser thing. As Pastor Furtick recently preached in his sermon series Mood Swingers, we need for our joy not to be dependent upon our circumstance. Our feelings need not control us, and neither do our circumstances.


Naomi Heidorn, the founding director of our school, graciously came to speak to us for our 10-year anniversary yesterday. Her words were filled with wisdom and grace as she shared about the early years of Arborbrook and also acknowledged some of the hard things that happened too. It isn’t good to gloss over the hard things, focusing only on the good. The pain now is part of the joy before. God uses those things for our good, as he used some hard things in the life of our school to make our school better and stronger as a result. Two of our alumni spoke yesterday, and it was clear how much good Arborbrook had done in their lives. How thankful I am when God gives us such clear pictures of the good He is doing in our midst, a lasting and eternal work in the hearts and minds of children and families.


Saturday, just as the ceremony was wrapping up and the rest of the festivities were set to begin, we received word that a mom from my church Carmel Baptist, dear friends of the Mowbray family, had been hiking on Crowders Mountain when she slipped and fell, losing her life. Earlier that day I had to deal with an incident of vandalism. Two of our staff members have close family members who are dying, and several close friends have received some devastating diagnoses. So as fun as it all was- the bands were amazing, the face painting and hair braiding and sketching were all so fun, the food trucks and fellowship, and dunking booth- all of it was just a blast; it was also marred somewhat by the reality of those things. The pain of loss, the sting of sin – it reminded me that this world is not our home. As grateful as we are for ten great years- and I am deeply grateful- this world is just a mist that appears for awhile and then vanishes. This is why it is so important what we are doing- teaching children about the reality and joy of the kingdom and new life through Christ.


I will choose to love, even though loving hurts. Even though it carries the risk of loss. Even though every family that leaves our school hurts my heart. I know that God’s will is a mystery and must trust that He will use the choices they make for His glory and for their good. When Naomi left Arborbrook, it hurt, and yet there is a new school filled with children in Nicaragua that would not have come to be had she not left. And He continues to bless Arborbrook beyond measure.


Meanwhile I pray. I pray for the choices, the hires, the schedules, the curriculum work, the campus improvements we must make happen this summer. I pray for those experiencing loss and illness. I pray for those who have children who are in rebellion or running from the truth of the gospel. I pray with a sense of urgency for the Lord’s favor to be upon our school. Please pray for the permitting delays and extra cost we may need to incur as we are facing an unexpected issue with Phase II of our gym renovation. Pray for creativity and patience as we work through these things, and that the Lord will raise up people who choose to give to the important work that we are doing as a school. Pray for our teachers and staff, and pray for the hearts of our students. Pray for strong and healthy marriages for our families.


I also give thanks. I give thanks for all He is doing and has done. I am thankful for our beautiful new gym, for a strong and supportive board, for the beautiful gardens all over campus and for people like Emily Shepherd who tends to the hearts of her students along with the veggies in our garden. I am thankful for news of great joy like the birth of little Luke Alexander D. and the engagement of our own April D. I am thankful for the very high quality people we have drawn this year to interview for open positions and for the equally high quality people who we have already and who are joyfully staying another year to teach or work for us. I am thankful for the hours the teachers and staff put in far beyond their work day at school to make our school amazing. I am thankful for volunteers like Jenna M. and Stacia N. who put in long hours to share their gifts with our school. I see the fingerprints of Jehovah Jireh all over this school from the people whose unique gifts add to our school to the privacy fence materials that the local Lowes is donating to us. God is so very, very good.


Will you join me in giving thanks for ten amazing years and looking forward with hope to the next ten? For make no mistake- what we are setting out to do at Arborbrook is no less than eternal- to love children and families for the kingdom.


“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:9