“He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.” -Psalm 78:5-7
My basement is overrun with boxes, many of which are filled with old memories that someone–probably my mom–felt were worth hanging on to. Trophies, certificates, ribbons, old baseball cards (worthless ones!), and the like. Every now and again when I go to the basement to retrieve something of actual value, I’ll open one of those boxes and fish through it, just to see what is actually in there. Occasionally I’ll find a toy that I can pass on to my children, like my Lego Pirate Ships (still fully assembled, packed carefully in a box for the last 25 years) or my Voltron set made up of all five original lion action figures.
Such was the adventure recently when I opened up an old box to discover that it was not my memories that it contained, but the memories of my father. Inside it were books, gifts, and photographs of things that he had received during his career that he wanted to remember. One of those memories, commemorated by panoramic-size photographs in a plastic, see-through photo binder, was a groundbreaking ceremony that took place at Eastern Christian Middle School 25 years ago, when my father was the Middle School Principal.
In 1992, the Eastern Christian Middle School was nothing more than a glorified hallway. A tour of the school would have been an abbreviated affair. You could walk in the front door and see clear down the single hallway to the rear door. To the left were offices, to the right was a multipurpose room, and the rest of the doors on both sides of the hallway opened into bathrooms or various classrooms. That was it. The tour was over.
As part of the 100-year celebration of Eastern Christian’s history, the parents of the school committed to an expansion of the middle school facilities. I remember Dad and others talking about how excited they were to see an expanded wing for additional classrooms, a larger library (now the Media Center), and eventually a gymnasium that would allow for a strong Middle School athletic program and alleviate some of the over-scheduling that was occurring with the existing gymnasiums at the Elementary School and High School. Expanding the facilities meant that the children enrolled at Eastern Christian at the time would have more and better opportunities for learning about God and his world and serving him with their talents and abilities.
So there was my Dad in the photograph, in line with a few others I recognized, holding a shovel and ceremonially breaking ground on the new facilities for the students of Eastern Christian Middle School. Little did he know that none of his children would ever get to enjoy the facility: my family moved away in 1995, and although phase one of the project had been completed, neither me nor my siblings were in middle school at the time.
Reflecting on that reality brought me to Psalm 78, where the Psalmist reminds the people of Israel that they are to teach their children about the things of God. The idea of passing on what we believe about God to our children is a persistent theme in the Old and New Testament. I’d wager that it’s perhaps the most significant reason that most Eastern Christian parents have chosen to send their kids to this school. Our desire is that our children are educated in an environment where God’s truths are interwoven with all of their studies. Math, Science, Social Studies, Literature, Art, Athletics, Music, Drama–indeed, all subjects and activities that our students partake in–are opportunities for our children to learn more about who God is, how He has designed the world, and how He loves us in Christ Jesus.
But there’s more.
The Psalmist doesn’t tell us to pass these truths on to our children and then stop there. The instruction is that we pass it on to our children, so that they will pass it on to their children, and their children’s children, even the ones who are unborn, so that even they would know the works of God and keep his commands. In other words, the commitment we make when we raise our children in the Lord is a generational one; it’s not just for the children we see now, it’s for the children we don’t see yet.
I thought about that as I flipped through the images of the groundbreaking, looking at the smiling faces, 25 years younger than I know them now. Hair that is now gray used to have color; others still had hair! Some of them, like Dad, are no longer with us. I know now what he could only dream of, then: Dad’s children didn’t get to enjoy a new wing or gymnasium at the Middle School, but his children’s children do.
In 1992, the parents of Eastern Christian weren’t just celebrating 100-years of God’s faithfulness. They were looking forward to God’s faithfulness to their children, and their children’s children, who were not yet born. They saw Eastern Christian as a resource that God had given to the community so that their children and the future generations to come could be taught of the glory of God. Their role was to steward that resource, for a time, so that they could pass on to their children and their children’s children a christian school that was better equipped to handle the task of education than it was when they received it.
I drop my kids off at the Middle School every morning and watch them run up to the well-lit, glass entryway. If we’re a little late, they buzz themselves in through the secure entrance, and Principal Lazor opens the door and gives a wave to let me know they’re in safe. I know they’ll come home and tell me about the technology they used in the media center and what sport they are learning in the gymnasium. I drive away and think about the investment made by the parents of Eastern Christian 25 years ago, thankful for the school that our children attend, and I wonder, “what sort of Eastern Christian will we leave to our unborn descendants, so that they can be taught to set their hope on God?”
That is the generational call of Christian parents, so that our children, and our children’s children, will not forget the works of God.
Pastor Jeremy Mulder