Today’s post is from 8th grade teacher Mr. William Barron.
Student: “Mr. Barron, may I ask a question?”
Mr. Barron: “Sure”
Student: “Why DO we do the 8th grade bike ride?”
As an educator, I love this type of question. Asked simply and honestly, it reflects the desire of a student to understand the larger picture.
Why do we camp outside, speak in front of others, read complicated texts, learn to dance the waltz, perform on stage, bike up steep roads, and rappel down tall cliffs? Why do we require our seniors to defend the good life as the culminating proclamation of why they are here? Why do we make difficult things mandatory at Cair Paravel?
We require it because preparing for and facing difficult things is how we grow. There is enormous value when a student pushes beyond what is comfortable and achieves what they once perceived to be impossible. Doing difficult things when we are younger prepares us for the difficult things that inevitably cross our paths later in life.
Each year all 8th grade students and a handful of parent volunteers bike 25 miles from school to Echo Cliff Park near Dover, Kansas. Our first big hills are fiercely intimidating. Steep but short, the dirt roads quickly sift out those who are fit for the challenge from those that need a little extra help. Each year some of the exhausted students feel that they have reached their physical limits and are unable to continue. And every year I watch an amazing act unfold.
I love to see the parent riders come alongside the students struggling behind the rest of the pack. Sometimes without words, these parents will reach out a helpful arm and guide a young rider up the hill. A little bit of gentle coaching paired with a strong push and the student is once again riding successfully over the hill and on to the next hard thing. These parent riders serve as a metaphor for what the body of Christ looks like when everyone serves in the way they have been gifted to bring Him glory.
Speaking of God’s provision for him through the Philippian church Paul wrote these words:
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13 (ESV)
Paul had been through difficult trials and had enjoyed the blessing of plenty. But the real reason he was able to do these things was because they were done not in Paul’s power but through Christ’s.
So, why do we do what we do here at Cair Paravel? We do it because it is hard. We do it because it gives the body an opportunity to use their gifts. We do it ultimately because it gives Him the glory and therefore fulfills our chief end as stated in the first catechism.
Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.