“I’m tired of living during a pandemic.”
My nine year old son sighed as he said this, wearily, before dinner tonight as we were discussing preparations for an upcoming road trip - and all the things that we couldn’t do because of, well, coronavirus.
You know, that teensy, tiny pathogen that has managed to cause mammoth upheavals in our entire society. The one that shuttered schools and shattered plans.
That itty, bitty, spiky ball of RNA that wields the power to ground 80-ton airplanes, dock 1,000 foot cruise ships, and bring multi-billion dollar economies to their knees.
That enigmatic, microscopic particle that’s also bringing people all around the world to their knees - and to hospital beds - in droves with an illness that we’re still trying to understand.
I’m tired of it, too. Aren’t you?
As much as we all have wished it would have been over by now (or, you know, wished 2020 as a whole would just be over by now), we’re in the place where we must continue to wade through the murky waters of this pandemic and figure out how to do life alongside an unseen enemy.
And that is what's causing a whole different epidemic among our nation - an epidemic of discord, dissonance, and division. The symptoms of this epidemic - fear, anger, indignance, confusion, and broken relationships - are sometimes just as bad as the virus itself.
THE RETURN TO SCHOOL
So here’s the question: how do we send kids to school in the midst of this environment? This isn’t just a question of how to keep them physically healthy. It’s a question of how to keep them mentally, emotionally, and (most importantly) spiritually healthy.
As debates over the prudence of opening schools rage on across the world, we at Veritas Academy truly are not only at peace with our plans to welcome the students back into our school in September, but we’re excited about it.
Yes, many things will look a little different. Yes, some sacrifices will still be made.
BUT, that doesn’t mean that we’re conceding our school year to loss. On the contrary, we’re utterly confident that this year is going to be as memorable, fun, and joyful as any year we’ve ever had (and perhaps even more so, considering these unique circumstances).
Here’s the thing, though: a big factor in the students’ school experience this year is going to be the principles and attitudes they bring with them every day. And a big factor in those principles and attitudes is what you, as parents, are instilling in them at home before they step through our doors.
We know that even within the church, the spectrum of fiercely-held opinions and beliefs on how to best deal with pandemics, societal injustices, and more is wide and multi-faceted. Among families within our school, you will find a range of perspectives and stances.
And we’re all coming together to seek out God’s truth, beauty, and goodness so that we can cultivate loving, serving, thinking students who are prepared for life and who love God and others fully and well.
So, while we may be coming from slightly different places, there are some foundational principles on which we (hopefully) all can agree that will help our children thrive in this unique and fraught start to a school year like no other.
5 BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES TO GUIDE FAMILIES ENTERING A PANDEMIC SCHOOL YEAR
#1) The Presence and Sovereignty of God
1 Thessalonians 5:9-10; Isaiah 46:9-10
“Only God knows what we’re in for this year. But we don’t need to know; we need to trust, trust in our God who holds us secure,” Bruce Etter, Academic Dean, encourages us.
“We need to pray for the physically weak, practice smart living regarding the virus and in the end, know that God is in control of the outcome. God’s rule did not cease when the first case of COVID-19 appeared. He is just as much in control now as ever.”
Head of School Ty Fischer has reminded us more than once through this wild ride of a year that “our God is still on his throne, and He is not up for re-election.”
That is a comforting thought, isn’t it? That what the enemy means for evil, God means for good. That a virus doesn’t diminish his goodness.
John Piper wrote a short book called Coronavirus and Christ, and for anyone wrestling with what God is doing in this global situation, it is a thought-provoking, convicting, and encouraging read. He reiterates God’s sovereignty and good purposes time and again, saying "the same sovereignty that could stop the coronavirus, yet doesn't, is the very sovereignty that sustains the soul in it." You can download or listen to the book free here.
“One of the things that’s a consistent theme that plays out in scripture is God is always with his people, and when he delivers them, it’s not usually early in the game. God delivers in situations where someone has been walking forward faithfully, for decades or even longer.”
Using Abraham as an example, Mr. Fischer encourages us to realize that “God wants us to follow Him through the storms, even joyfully trust in Him so much that we’re willing to follow Him through the winds and the waves, without losing our sight of him. That’s when real joy and deliverance are found in scripture.
"He saves on a Sunday morning, not always on a Thursday evening."
We might still be in the blackness of Friday or Saturday right now in this pandemic. We as a church, nation, and world, still have things we can learn and glean from this experience, and have the opportunity to loudly and beautifully glorify our sweet and sovereign Lord even if the enemy rages a storm against us. Let us not tire of walking faithfully through the storm.
If your children are fearful of the pandemic, worried about social injustices, scared for the future of a world that seems to be coming apart at the seams around them, then prepare them for school and beyond by taking their hands and hearts and leading them to the throne of our Sovereign God, who in his great power also shows us great love and mercy by inviting us into his very presence. That is where our peace can be found as we venture into a new season.
2) Respect for Authority
Hebrews 13:17, Romans 13, 1 Peter 2:13-25
Graham Dennis, our Dean of Students, observes how it is easiest, during cultural moments like this, to become hypercritical of our authorities. We all imagine ways that we would do it better, and how our own strategic plans would fix everything.
The Bible commands us, in multiple places, to respect our governing authorities and render to them what they are due as they engage in the various challenges that their office presents to them.
Hebrews 13:17 tells us to "obey our leaders so that their work might be a joy and not a burden." Romans 13 goes further and tells us to "submit to governing authorities because they are established by God." The passage that probably gives us the clearest principles for submitting to authority (even unjust authority) is I Peter 2:13-25. Here is a portion of that passage:
"Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor."
(1 Peter 2:13-17)
Bottom line: no governing authority has been established without the Lord having put him or her in their position. While we are blessed with freedoms to vocally disagree with our authorities and to make our concerns known, we as believers are called to do this while maintaining respect. We urge you to instill this respect in your children - yes, encourage them to exercise their right to free speech and to opinions, but to do so without slandering, disparaging, or disrespecting the authorities.
3. Respect and Love for One Another
Philippians 2:1-11, 1 Corinthians 8:9-13, 1 Corinthians 13
Continuing on the lines of respect, Mr. Dennis says the following:
"One of the hallmarks of the Christian is seeing in his neighbor the image of God. The respect we have for one another derives from the fact that our neighbor is an image bearer of God. Moreover, as Athanasius reminds us, our neighbor bears the image of the Incarnate Son, who took on our flesh and ennobled it by his assumption of it.
When we differ in opinion about some matter, we are to do so recognizing that our neighbor is an image of God and deserves to be respected as such. What we are starting to see in our culture is a destruction of manners and decency. The pandemic has become an excuse, in many instances, for people to give vent to their base frustrations. But Christians are called to express Christ in our lives by loving our neighbor—even our enemies!
Paul has also given us an important teaching on the role of conscience. Acts that are not done in faith—with the support of conscience—are sin. There are many during this pandemic who will behave in certain ways because their consciences are telling them to. It is sin for us to cause our brother to act in unfaith and against his conscience."
The principle of caring for our neighbor’s conscience—especially that of a fellow believer (or the “weaker brother” as some know it) —is articulated in I Cor. 8:9-13.
Mr. Fischer calls on 1 Corinthians 13 to remind us that love believes the best about the other person. Consider the debates raging through our communities, whether about masks, social distancing, school reopening, or the many social issues not related to COVID.
“What people do on the outside doesn’t always show you what’s underneath,” he says. “You don’t see the hearts of other people. Let some of this be between themselves and God.”
Our Dean of Academics, Bruce Etter, continues on this concept, saying:
"We all know we’re supposed to love our neighbor, but we tend to forget that loving our neighbor when it’s difficult to do so is the real test of the 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love. Living out this biblical love means deferring to others, showing grace when we disagree and being patient and kind to those with whom we differ.”
Help your kids see their peers, teachers, and others as fellow image-bearers of God, to whom they are called to submit out of love and consideration. Whether it’s mask wearing, social issues, or political viewpoints - for the youngest students up through the seniors - we hope that each child will come to school ready to care for the others’ consciences.
4. Unity in Christ
In his “high priestly prayer” in John 17, Jesus prays that we might be one so that the world will know that we are the disciples of Jesus.
“While there is so much division in this world, it is time now for us to reflect the deep and abiding unity we have in Christ Jesus,” urges Mr. Dennis. He continues, saying:
“We cannot allow our culture to divide us—as Satan would desire—but we must demonstrate the unity in Christ that is a reflection of the unity that exists in the Holy Trinity. We do this by extending grace to one another for the various differences in viewpoint that will emerge during this time."
"Normally, we are called to shower each other with grace and love, which cover a multitude of sins. So much more are we called to do so when Satan is trying to divide the world in factions of hate and distrust. Much more the church is called, during times like this, to express the supernatural unity we have, through the indwelling presence of the Spirit, in Jesus, our head. The church is the bride of Christ, and Jesus has only one bride. We must be reminded of the extremely high call to unity that is always given to the church of Jesus Christ.”
Along the lines of respect for one another and concern for the weaker brother, model and teach your children to pursue unity in the church. We don’t mean unity at the expense of truth - but where scriptures are clear, and where God has spoken, we must hold fast to Christ and to one another.
5. Be joyful and positive
Philippians 2:14-18, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19, Philippians 4:8
The first grade class at Veritas learns a passage of scripture for every letter of the alphabet. Their verse for the letter D is one that parents love to hear (and they even have a little song that goes with it): “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure children of God.” (Philippians 2:14)
There are things about this school year that will be hard. There are frustrations that come with trying to be responsible, safe, and healthy, following the authorities guidelines as best as possible while providing the best education experience possible.
But you know what’s so awesome about our Veritas faculty and staff? They are rising to this challenge with passion, excitement and a mentality that they are going to make this year as joyful as school has ever been at Veritas (and those who have been part of our community know that joyful learning is a cornerstone of what we do here).
Please, we encourage you to help that joy and excitement flourish by passing it onto your children, too. Don’t focus on what might be lost, but rejoice in what we have. Outdoor classes under the new tents, cozy reading time in the cafeteria, and more new ways of doing things will serve to create plenty of memories and enhance learning in fresh ways. Best of all, your kids have teachers who love them, love teaching, and love God. It will be good. Rejoice always! (1 Thessalonians 5:16-19)
So breathe, and speak life into your child’s school year before they start. Pray for their teachers and administrators. Prepare not only their physical selves with the supplies and clothes they need, but equip and clothe them with a spirit of joy. Focus on the good, true, and beautiful...and we promise we will, too. (Philippians 4:8)
Mr. Etter has a final word of wisdom for each of to take to heart:
“I want to encourage you to begin each day with a prayer for faith, love and patience; a prayer expressing confidence in God’s watch and care over our children; a prayer that He will prosper our efforts at Veritas Academy, and bring an end to the global pandemic.”
(Veritas parents, be sure to join us every Friday morning at 8:00 AM for prayer time at the school and on Zoom before school begins!)
A joyful, rich, and full educational experience is possible, even in a coronavirus pandemic. If you are not already a Veritas family we would love to invite you to experience what an education at Veritas looks like. We are still enrolling new students and invite you to contact our Director of Admissions Jill Trimbath (firstname.lastname@example.org or (717) 205-3617) to learn more or click the button below to schedule a time to visit our school.