Headmaster’s Address Convocation September 2, 2023
I had a very different summer this year, one like never before. Most summers I love to be quite active. I typically work here at the school for a good part of a day, and then home on the farm doing any number of things you do when you live on a farm: Build, fix, harvest, mow, preserve, till, dig, fill, remove, or …. You get the idea.
I also enjoy being active and invest in some good fun: Swim, or golf, or sail, or canoe, or fish, or hike, or… you get the idea.
This year, as the Lord would have it, I had to be very still for much of July. I laid down; I sat; I slept; I listened; I watched; I thought; I dreamed; I reflected; I read.
But I did not do much. Then, as July changed to August, I began to walk, to regain a life that had been so normal, so everyday for me. Now, emerging into September, I’m still on that path.
In the quiet time, I read a lot; and reflected. I learned many things; I learned things that I wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity to see or know. I worked on my gratitude, and I began my journal, charting my 1000 Gifts.
One thing I did during my season of convalescence was to read my journals. I have been a journal keeper for many years, nearly 40 now. I got them all out, spread them out in front of me, and began, on page one. I’m not done yet, I’m actually only up to 2012; progress is a little slower now, now that I can do more.
My journals are stories: of my life, my family, my town, my church. Some local, national, and international things. It is a Providential History – what is God doing in our lives?
I was able to see a pattern, perhaps the ways of God with Man. Or at least this man, and those around him. In the journals, the entire story of JRHS is there. The story of so many lives, being influenced by this mission. The pattern had three distinct parts:
The First part of the pattern was struggle. I began to see over time, year after year, learning is difficult, and that students struggle. I saw that:
Students struggle with Algebra 1, particularly chapter 4, each year about Nov 1
Students struggle with good writing: clear, whole, strong, unique, poised
Struggle with tough literature: Tale of Two Cities, Scarlett Letter, Julius Caesar, Communist Manifesto, Of Mice and Men
With scientific concepts: momentum, Newtons 3 laws, stoichiometry, Krebs cycle,
With Truth in a broken world
With hard work: homework, workdays, snow shoveling, mountain climbing, portfolios
With Loving one another, with forgiving, with longsuffering, with giving, serving
With competition; with winning or losing. Maybe a lot of both
With perseverance, grit, temerity,
With orating, projecting, memorizing, reading, dramatizing,
I could see year after year, that schooling, growing up really, is a struggle. And then, as I kept reading, I began to see that the struggle is necessary; essential and beautiful; a gift from God.
I was reminded of some of my favorite Latin words:
Curriculum – the course, or the race for horses. We can picture the chariots, racing around the course, the driver spurring his horses on!
Student – one in painstaking application. Yes, that is it, that is an original definition!
As I read more and more, recounting the stories of scores of Jesse students leading up to today, I began to see the next part of the pattern. This expression was right alongside the pattern of struggle; it was not in place of struggle, but it came after a season.
There were those who came to understand that the STRUGGLE is ultimately Good - God’s Plan for them, for today. Sadly, there were students that came up to the struggle, and they complained, and blamed and ran, and put all kinds of energy into trying to get around the struggle. Their story did not end well.
Then champions began to spring out of the pages of my journal, those who embraced the challenges of today, and thanked God for the opportunity to stress and grow. They did not necessarily like stoichiometry, or balancing equations, or creative writing, or poetry reading, or… But they chose to embrace the challenge and overcome it.
I could see their parents saw the value in the struggle, and encouraged and helped their children along. During the times of crisis, parents held forth a light, to get the hiker back on the path.
And then, I began to see, year after year, the final expression of the Pattern – the VICTORY that came as a result of the struggle. I began to see students filled with confidence, and skill and poise, and maturity, and strength. I began to see STRUGGLE turned into VICTORIOUS INFLUENCE.
Today, these alumni lead prosperous lives, serving God, and loving Jesus in their homes, churches, workplaces. They are all over the world now, cheering us all on to Victory.
What the Victors Figured out was this strange and beautiful, “Renewing of the Mind” –
A Process that will bring you through the PATTERN, same as the scores of Jesse Students before you:
First, you must STRUGGLE
Then, you will be presented the rare opportunity to OVERCOME
Finally, as you press on, you will begin to see and experience VICTORY
Perhaps the Journal Entries I liked the most were the ones when I wrote about the graduation podium. I thanked God for their stories, their Victories!
So, students, I want to encourage you towards your graduation podium. The journey to your podium will be marked with hard work, with struggle, with embracing and overcoming struggle, and ultimately with victory that you can’t even see right now. This is what we mean by this year’s theme from Romans 12: the “renewal of your mind.”