Eight and a half years ago, a much more naive version of myself stood up at my high school graduation and said this in a speech:
“Attending Eastwood Christian Academy was one of the best decisions that I have ever made. It has been worth every sacrifice my mom and I have made… It means everything to me that we read the Bible every morning in homeroom, as well as begin each day with prayer. Only at a Christian school does a student have the privilege of attending a chapel service every Wednesday. I am so thankful that if I have ever needed to get godly advice or if I ever needed to just talk to someone, the teachers here at Eastwood have always been available to me and willing to take the time to listen and pray with and for me.”
I added, “The price of tuition is so small compared to the price that a student has to pay not to be surrounded by this atmosphere…”
I started attending this very small, very conservative Christian school in 2001. After graduation, I’d go on to attend (a series of) small Christian universities (kudos to people who pick one college and stick with it). I’d graduate from a small Christian university and go on to start my graduate studies at a Southern Baptist seminary.
All of this is to say that I’m a product of Christian education. And I owe my life, most of my spiritual foundation, and a whole lot of my growth in Christ to my experience in Christian education. I don’t regret a moment of it. Nearly a decade later, after much spiritual growth and transformation, I stand by what 18-year-old Myriah said.
In a day and age where Christian education is under attack, I want to be honest, though. It wasn’t a perfect experience. Some subjects, ideally, could have been covered more thoroughly. I didn’t support every rule enforced at my high school. Also, it was expensive. My working class, single mom sacrificed owning a car for periods because we couldn’t afford tuition and a working vehicle.
All those sacrifices were infinitely worth it. And many of those shortcomings are now overshadowed by the benefits I received from Christian education, benefits I would not have gotten elsewhere.
First, academically, I excelled. Even in the subjects I struggled in (math…) my classes were small, so my teachers could give me one-on-one attention without harming the rest of the class. My subjects I showed a proclivity for were nurtured by having familiar teachers over and over and a steady, thorough curriculum. Today, I take the skills I learned in high school English and grammar straight to the bank when I show up at work as an editor/writer each day. Memorizing scripture each week stretched and programmed my brain to be able to memorize and retain things I still remember to this day. I could definitely go on.
Second, spiritually, a foundation that has yet to be destroyed was laid. Each morning we started with Bible class. There, we were taught various biblical doctrines. Each week I sat under preaching geared toward my age group. A controlled environment helped me form the foundation for what I would and wouldn’t do, and why. For example, by the teaching of doctrine and absorption of the atmosphere, my tiny heart was being shaped into the heart that, although flawed, passionately loves Jesus today.
Lastly, I knew that I mattered to each and every one of my teachers. I was given individualized, personal encouragement on a day-to-day basis. Sometimes I was given personalized constructive criticism. When my mom was in the hospital my teachers reached out to me, and I knew they cared. Once that love came in the form of a candy cane with Jimmy Neutron’s face on it that my teacher set aside specifically for me (I had a weird crush on a cartoon character in junior high). Another time it came through a teacher pointing out I had a gift for writing that I didn’t even realize existed. I was invested in, I was pruned, and I was loved. Throughout college, I ran into this same level of personal investment and love time and time again.
When I was in fourth grade, there was a terrifying storm. I remember sitting with my friend Thomas, and we were both frightened. He asked if we could pray.
Right there, he and I bowed our heads and asked the Father to protect us. Is a Christian school the only place something like this happens? Absolutely not. But in today’s American society, it’s one of the few places that public show of trust in the Almighty is truly fostered.
If none of the rest of these points held any weight in my argument for Christian schools, this one should. Because little things like that taught me to love Jesus like I do today. And that’s the stuff that counts in eternity.