I just spent a week grading Advanced Placement essays in Louisville, Kentucky. This explains the lower number of blog posts of late. It also marks the 5th summer I have had the privilege to do so, each of which has been filled with memorable insights from the younger generation. Unfortunately, I am prohibited from sharing any of these with you because of privacy issues, but I will say that the pervasive quiet of the giant convention center floor where 1,000 of my fellow readers gather in the ice-box air-conditioned cold, is often disrupted by short bursts of laughter from individual readers, and sometimes by entire tables which pass around the really juicy essays. I know it sounds cruel, but if you had to read 1,000 essays about the complex nature of the relationship between a newly married husband and wife in George Eliot’s Victorian and freakishly long novel Middlemarch, you’d find ways to break the ice as well.
However, the main impression that most readers take from their experience is formed by the essays that display an awareness of the world that vastly exceeds the years their composers have spent on earth. Many of these kids say things in 40 minutes (the amount of time allotted for the essay) that give me pause to think and re-examine my own preconceptions about how the world works. This week, I was challenged to think about the nature of marriage, and about the sacrifice required to make relationships work. Again, I can’t share the exact wording of these insights, but I often found my mind chasing down the personal significance of a student comment, and having to force it back to the essay at hand. After a week of receiving constant – and frequently strange – marriage advice from teenagers, I am in odd fashion refreshed and recommitted to making my marriage better. (Although, I’m not sure that Christine feels the same way, after having a spent 9 days as a single mom without me. Sorry, honey…and thank you sooooooo much for being AWESOME!)
Wisdom can come from the most unexpected places. What matters most is our openness to receiving truth. We must position our soul, incline our heart. In the Bible, God’s proclamation to man came with trumpets and whispers, through talking donkeys and burning bushes. It came through prophets and saints and sinners alike.
We are starting a boys ranch in the Ozarks of Missouri because this place gives us the best possible chance for success. The property we plan to purchase on July 15th is a place where God can speak to troubled boys. The land itself – tree, grass, flower, pond and sky – is part of the therapy. It is medicine for the soul.
Our horses may not talk, but Whetstone Boys Ranch will be an instrument of peace and a voice crying in the wilderness. Pray that God will send us boys whose ears are open to hear.