164 days. March 13-August 24th. 164 days without teachers and children in the hallways.

5 days. This week. 5 days with voices and laughter of children filling every corner of campus. 

Sometimes we experience emotions where we struggle to find words to express what we feel. The closest word for how I have felt this week is JOY. My son came home after the first day of class in 164 days and said, “Dad, it was the best first day ever!” I will never know what it is like for a 7 year old to go through a pandemic and isolation, but I got a glimpse into his soul seeing his delirious delight in returning to school, being with his friends, making new friends, and learning from his amazing teachers. 

I kind of forgot how sweet so many little things are. Things like Philadelphia-Eagle-loving 2nd grader Savaad telling me his aunt can make me a Chicago Bear mask, or watching the 3rd and 4th graders learning Spanish group dances, to seeing last year’s little kindergarteners as big first graders, or just getting the chance to lead a chapel and see how eager every child was to participate (even my shy Risa). Both of my girls have already found new dear friends, which melts my daddy heart. 

Every year I have a specific word/blessing/prayer on my heart for the school. Last year the word was “Fear or Faith.” Every day we have many opportunities to choose the road of fear or the path to trust that the loving God is taking care of us. Romans 8 says that God can supernaturally take away our spirit that is enslaved to fear, and He gives us a new spirit where we know that our Abba (Aramaic for Daddy) God is all powerful and loving and we can trust Him no matter what, even in the most difficult year of my life.

This year, the unmistakable word/blessing/prayer on my heart is JOY. I want our families to come to campus and drink from an oasis of joy.  I have no idea how much loss, stress, hurt, or fear families have gone through or are going through, and how that has invisibly impacted our children. And I want every CBA family member to daily drink JOY.

Joy is not a naive misunderstanding that everything is right with the world. Because everything ain’t right with the world. In John 15, Jesus tells his disciples that if they “abide” in Him, then His joy will be in them, and their joy would be complete. His timing is extremely noteworthy. Because this conversation takes place moments before Judas betrays him, leading to his trial and crucifixion within hours. Complete joy is not based on everything being right in life. Complete joy is that Jesus has come to free us from our slavery to fear and selfishness, allowing us to freely live lives of love, regardless of how much that might cost us, because we have an eternal promise of being with Him where everything will be made right.

I know times are hard. But I also know Jesus is good. As we do school in the middle of a pandemic and take many, many measures to protect children, we will do so not out of fear but out of love to protect our families, and we will do it out of joy. I am grateful that our children are tasting again the inexpressible goodness of friendship and learning. 

Welcome to CBA—an Oasis of Joy.

Dr. Nathan Johnson