The Thickets by the Jordan

Written by Pat Fitzpatrick

“If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?”Jeremiah 12:5

The new president of ACSI, Dr. Larry Taylor, recently shared Jeremiah 12:5 with a group of headmasters from around the country, and I have found myself reflecting on both the beauty of its poetry and symbolism and the truths packed into these questions that God poses to Jeremiah.

As a former collegiate long-distance swimmer, I remember with fondness the seemingly endless training my coach put me through in order to prepare me for four years of competition. To be competitive as a miler I often swam six to eight miles per day, mostly in twenty to thirty minutes high intensity/low rest sets. He wanted me to overtrain – so that I could “compete with horses” and so that I could “manage in the thickets by the Jordan.”

The same is true for athletes engaged in team sports.  Great teams practice at or above the level of intensity that they will experience during competition.  If a varsity team practices with middle school level intensity how will they be prepared to compete?

As a parent and as the headmaster of a Christian school, I see “competing with horses” and “managing in the thickets by the Jordan” as metaphors for the heartaches and challenges that our children and our students will inevitably face in their lifetime. James 1:2 says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials…” When, not if.

Like great athletic coaches, parents ought to intentionally provide their children with training at an appropriate intensity level so as to prepare them for the inevitable challenges they will face in life. Unfortunately, most children from Christian families are not receiving this level of training. The average Christian young person spends six hours (25%) of each day engaged with social media, six hours (25%) or more of each weekday at school, and less than two hours (1%) per week in church or spiritual activities such as devotionals.  The difference between the level of training that a Christian young person receives and what a nonChristian teen experiences is negligible. It is not surprising, then, that many of these children stumble or turn tail and run when their faith is tested.

Our graduates run with horses and have learned how to safely navigate the thickets of Jordan. This is true because we partner with Christian parents to edify, encourage, and equip our students to think biblically, serve effectively, and lead Christ-centered lives. Our students are immersed into an environment where their Christian worldview takes shape and grows and where they are trained with the same level of “game intensity” they will encounter when they head out into the world.

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