Thursday, 7 June 2018  | Narelle - MECS Principal

Last Sunday evening, my family and I celebrated the dedication of our little grandson, Isaac. Many of you will remember that he was born prematurely, at only 26 weeks, and so the journey to being a healthy, cheeky 10 month old has been a long one! Whilst the occasion of a dedication or a christening is a symbolic one of giving our child back to God, from the moment we hold our beloved newborn baby we begin one of the greatest challenges as a parent; learning to let go.

As much as we love them, want to protect them and hold them close forever, for their own developing sense of independence and well-being there needs to be an age-appropriate loosening of the apron strings. Events such as the first day of Foundation, staying overnight on school camps, the Year 10 journey to Yuendumu, persevering through VCE, getting a licence to drive a car, are all steps on the journey of our children becoming adults.

But how do we intentionally navigate our children towards spiritual independence? A faith that is personal and owned and desired by the children themselves? If we at any time underestimate the significance of this aspiration, then we need only read the first verses of John chapter 15. Jesus makes it abundantly clear in one, counter-cultural and challenging vision of the Christian life.

‘I am the vine, and you are the branches,’ he tells his disciples. ‘Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me, you can do nothing.’ If those words aren’t blunt enough, he continues: ‘Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.’ 

And so, for our children’s spiritual well-being, independence should not be the goal at all. Amidst a culture that idealises rampant individualism, we are to raise them in communities of radical dependence. We are meant to live lives of profound interdependence, growing into, around, and out of each other. In this image of the vine, dependence is not a matter of preference; it’s a matter of life and death. Branches that refuse to cling to the vine die. The stakes are that high. 

I think a great deal about the faith development of children in my role as Principal of a Christian school, and also in my role as mother and grandmother. Many of you also express the desire to see your children mature towards a personal and growing faith in Christ. You recognise, as do I, that the very foundation of our school is to partner with parents to form resilient, character-filled young people of faith.

Jesus’ image of the vine implies that our life is not our own, that our choices affect others and we are bound into the community of God’s people whether we feel like it or not. Sadly, people get hurt, trust is broken, forgiveness and healing is required. Our students coexist with fellow branches and it can be tough to thrive at times. The very connectedness we strive to create can be a hothouse of high expectations, teenage immaturity and spasmodic spiritual growth that is messy, crowded and tangled. We require the fruits of the spirit and great measures of God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness to maintain a healthy, fruitful vine.

I titled this reflection ‘Abide’ because it is the key word in Jesus’ metaphor. If God is the vine grower, Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches, what should we do as parents, grandparents, teachers, leaders and role models to our children? We have only one task: to abide. To persist, to stay, to cling, to remain, to depend, to rely, to last, to hold on, to commit, to be constant, to tolerate, to endure, to acquiesce, to accept. To stay there for the long haul. And we do this for ourselves, our children, our students and for all those we journey with through life.


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