Russell and Duenes

Feeling Nostalgic – Ten Years at Redwood Christian – 2008-09

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If I was not so weak, If I was not so cold, If I was not so scared of being broken, growing old, I would be…frail

– Jars of Clay

It is nice to reflect on the good times and successes God has given me at Redwood, but I also think on my regrets, sins, and failings: the students I didn’t discipline properly or the things I said because I wanted them to like me, the parents I should have called, but didn’t, the prayers I could have offered up more regularly for my students, the hypocrisy – too often to count – when I exhorted my students to live a certain way while I myself wasn’t. How often fear ruled me; fear of being disrespected and disliked, fear of having to give up too much of my time and energy, fear of denying myself daily and taking up my cross. I have many times reflected on Paul’s words, “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has wrought in me.” How does one teach the Bible while obeying these words? The Scripture is full of exhortations and commands, and I wonder how much I’ve obeyed my own biblical teaching even as I’ve pressed my students to obey it. I know that God is gracious, and the blood of Jesus covers all of my sins, but I still feel a sense of regret over the ways I fell short, knowing I can’t get that time back again.

When I measure my love against 1 Cor 13, then I see how cold I’ve actually been. “If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging symbol.” How many times I’ve congratulated myself after a class for my own supposed eloquence, when perhaps there was little love in it, and a lot of self-aggrandizement. “And if I understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” No quarter should be given to anti-intellectualism in Christian education, but I can’t help but reflect on all my strivings for knowledge and academic attainment, which too often gave cover to my aloofness and detachment from students and their deeply felt concerns. “And if I give up all my possessions and hand over my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” A lot of talk about being “radical” for Jesus – which has a proper place – but not enough love expressed through prayer. Indeed, if there’s one regret I have in my ten years, it’s not whether I used poor teaching technique, or failed to show up at enough school extra-curricular activities, or lacked proper contact with parents, but rather, the sparseness of my getting on my knees and pleading, begging, and entreating before the throne of God for my students. Call it what you may, the Bible calls it unbelief. Did I “suffer long” with my students? Did I “insist on my own way?” Was I “kind?” Was I “arrogant or rude?” Did I “bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things?” I would not need you to forgive me, Lord Jesus, if I had done these as you command. Forgive me, O Father, and keep sanctifying me so that I would love like this. May my successor do it more faithfully than I did.

Al Hearne became principal this year, and I can’t say enough about the job he’s doing. We also changed our school logo.

As for the Class of ’08-09, a few things come to mind. I wouldn’t say I knew a lot of students in this class well, but I did have a lot of fun with them. I can still hear Daymond Dixon mocking me: “Hey guy!” The lunchtime conversations with me, Curt, and Kal Holmlund. Saying Majella’s last name with great delight: “RINGOR!” Being grateful for the way that God has been working in Ryan Lamb’s life, who now works at Redwood. Enjoying the expression on Tarai Prym-Waqa’s face when I said, “TAREEYASEE!” Driving the school bus through the streets of Hollywood on the senior trip. And enjoying Billy Statman’s impersonations of Mr. Wilcox.

As for the freshmen that year, they’re now in my junior “New Testament Epistles” class. I’ve been one of their class advisors this year and must say I have enjoyed them a great deal. I truly wish I could have them as seniors. They have a unique ethos about them, and I think there is a great amount of spiritual curiosity that often sits just beneath the surface. The boys especially have an opportunity to really go hard after God, and thus, make a huge impact on their class. They are aware, I think, of the authority and influence they have, and what joy they could bring by their proper use, by putting away from themselves all mockery, scoffery, scorn, and ridicule. But they could as easily go the other way – and often have – and leave misery in their wake. So many times they have made me think of the Proverbs, with its contrasts between the wise and the foolish. May their hearts incline toward wisdom more and more, Lord. May the Scripture be true of them, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child, reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”

Lord, you know my faults and failings. You know my fears and idolatries. You see where I did not love with your love. I confess it, Lord, and ask that you would still be pleased to bear much fruit in the students’ lives. Even if my motivations were often mixed, I trust they heard the gospel, and as Paul says, “in that I rejoice.” May these students seek first your kingdom and your righteousness. May you give them a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of you. May they know the immeasurable greatness of your power toward us who believe. May you be their strength in the valley of the shadow of death. May they bless your name in every way, and never forget all your benefits. In Christ’s name. Amen.


Written by Michael Duenes

June 5, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Posted in Duenes, Nostalgia

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