Last Friday, our school had its final assembly for the term. This assembly is annually the Easter assembly – the school’s celebration of the most important day in the Christian calendar. It is often a time of joy and fun, as many children are excited about their upcoming holidays and teachers look forward to weeks of having to only manage their own, biological children. However, last week’s assembly was not the usual, it was not formulaic, it was certainly not a standard school meeting… rather it carried a weight, which profoundly challenged me.
The Thursday before this, the news broke of our president’s reshuffle to his cabinet – causing South Africans and international investors alike to appear as stable as a toddler on a newly polished floor. As the toddler grabbed for the metaphoric support structures (ranging from passports to offshore accounts) we, at school, received further destabilising news – a staff member’s new born infant had taken a turn for the worse. It was in the light of these national developments that only 60% of the school populace filed into the assembly hall. Many of the teachers were having last minute peeks at social media and news sites, monitoring the developments of the marches taking place around the country, at which their friends and spouses were present. Parents chatted nervously about national developments, quickly changing the subject to upcoming holidays, while their children in the front of the hall seemed unsettled in the half-empty space.
Personally, I felt the weight of leading a school that was wrestling with the role it should play on a national and collegial level. We had begun the morning praying for our nation and our friend and now needed to put on our ‘teacher masks’ to control a group of 500 children for the next half an hour. There was an unease about. Typically, we begin our assemblies with praise and worship songs, led by a Junior Prep teacher – these songs tend to be very repetitive, annoyingly catchy and ultimately simplistic. These songs are aimed at our Grade 1s, 2s and 3s. However, this morning, our regular Junior Prep teacher was not at school and the Senior Prep teacher, armed only with her beautiful voice and piano, began to play out of her own repertoire – the song was entitled ‘Brave’. Within a few chords every individual in the auditorium was singing, from the most energetic grade 1 to the most easily distracted dad, the words of the song seemed to galvanise a group of people whose personal and national fears were laid bare for all to see. Beneath the watery eyes of the parents, there appeared a steeliness, the children’s faces spoke of hope and belief in what they sang:
“You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the promises you made
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way”
The words spoke of a security, a deep-seated knowledge that the God who had orchestrated that His son would die on a cross for each and every one of us, was the same God who held our nation in His hands. He was the same God who walked beside our broken-hearted colleague, was the same God that children fundamentally believed would make them brave, because He loved them.
Easter became a reality in that moment. A God who so loved His creation that He sent His son to pay the price that we should have, in so doing, defeating death and cementing our relationship with Him.