Thesis: We each are called into personal and community responsibilities to accomplish good work.
I am, I can, I ought, I will
Charlotte Mason’s original words, “I am a human being, one of God’s children; I can do right by my fellowmen and by myself; I ought so to do and God help me, I will so do,” give us insight into the heart of the work we each enter into each day.
In our very first home, called Eden, God the Great I Am created. He spent 6 days doing the work of forming the intricacies of a universe we humans continue to discover. If you’re a God-follower who chooses to believe the history documented in the Bible, you accept the creatio ex nihilo (creation out of nothing) account that our world came into existence because God told it to. Regardless of where on the creation-evolution spectrum you fall, matter started at some point: specifically, the point when God spoke it into being. After the immense starry universe and the tiniest quark and lepton were set in motion, God placed his finest Creation(s) into the indescribable garden, commissioning them to take care of it and to procreate. While God established Adam and Eve as the caretakers of the Garden, it is apparent He interacted with them and with nature on a regular basis before they rejected His provisions.
In other Bible history, we learn about the work of building the Tent of Meeting, also called the Tabernacle, after the Israelites were delivered from their slavery in Egypt. Each craftsman was commissioned with a very specific task to accomplish before it was joined to the parts done by others in order to complete the blueprints God had given Moses. The Bible points out very specifically that each craftsman worked as God had gifted him or her.
King Solomon was commissioned by his father, King David, a passionate God-follower, to build a permanent site as the Tabernacle’s replacement. The magnificence of the first temple in Jerusalem outdid anything known in that era yet it was built by human artisans attending to their portion of the massive structure. A very similar dynamic is recorded when Nehemiah returned to a desolate Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls: each man worked in conjunction with others under the leadership of their project manager. The Bible records instructions and encouragement directly from God as the architect and investor in the undertaking.
The modern assembly line is another clear illustration of the efforts of each individual being purposely placed together to create one finished project. It isn’t difficult for me to mentally recreate the sights, sounds, and smells of the stamping plant where my dad worked for General Motors. The wonder of seeing immense glistening rolls of sheet metal being mechanically sliced then fed into a machine which spit it out the other side shaped like a fender or a front quarter panel made 9-year-old me think working there was the greatest opportunity ever. The parts from our local plant were shipped to the assembly plant and, if there were no strikes that year, a 1973 station wagon soon rolled across town full of noisy children.
From the time we take our first morning stretch in bed to the time we put our shoes in the closet, tuck our tired bare feet under those same covers, and turn off the light, good work is set before us. Just like Adam and Eve, we are His creation; we are created in Christ Jesus for good works. (I am) God prepared today’s activities ahead of time so that we should walk in them. (from Ephesians 2:10) He not only gives us direction (I ought) but He also amply supplies the grace and energy to follow through on our commissions (I can). He waits for us to decide (I will) if we willThe works God imagined for you at creation are now yours to produce.
Each student who comes through our school gate is responsible to complete the work set before them while our teachers are “committed to giving each student the opportunity to be an active participant in the learning process by calling upon each student to read, demonstrate, and discuss daily.” (AS Parent Handbook 2020-21; p. 14) In every classroom, every student interaction, every assignment, and each opportunity to learn, both the student and the teacher have an important role in our community. The watercolor painting, the learning of geography, and the discovery of how a prism gathers invisible light and casts its separate colors across the desk is not always easy, but it is good work especially when it is done together.
“At Ambleside, every student is expected to put forth effort and to give full attention to the tasks at hand,” even when it’s difficult and requires respectful submission or careful focus. It is through the knowledge of God’s will and the wisdom and understanding the Spirit gives that any of us –student, staff or parent– “are able to walk worthy of the Lord…bearing fruit in every good work…” (from Colossians 1:9b-10) Even in these “last few hours” of punching the timeclock on the 2020-2021 school year, God is promising the blueprints, the encouragement and the final product as we lean into Him and His ways.
Unlike the automobile assembly line in Michigan which ran most smoothly with no variance, the administration, teachers, and staff at Ambleside appreciate the variety of personalities and gifts that God is producing through life at Ambleside. The uniqueness of each student makes them artisans in our precious community. 1 Corinthians 3:9 refers to teachers as coworkers with those they lead. We are God’s building and the overwhelming beauty of us as a whole is due to each individual doing their own part well.
We can be grateful that God has a plan; He invites us into it daily and empowers us through His Spirit. He is calling us to recognize we exist as a community of individuals that can, and ought, and will allow Him to work out His plan in and through us. And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)