boarding school for troubled boys

“Will” is an important word at Whetstone.  Brandon and Laura’s 2 year old son is named Will.  We have a beautiful chestnut brown horse named Will. (Interestingly, he was given that name years before he was generously donated to us.)  Will is a helping verb that aids in forming, among other things, the future perfect tense – a concept that we will be working hard to understand on Monday morning at Whetstone Academy.

More central to my point, human will is central to any change that occurs on our ranch or in our boarding school.  We are not behaviorists.  We do not believe that our control of a boy’s environment makes him change.  We’re just not that smart.

But wait, I can hear you say, isn’t that the whole idea behind Whetstone Boys Ranch?  Create an atmosphere filled with unconditional love, positive role models, academic guidance, meaningful labor …and poof! a rebellious boy turns into a responsible man!

Not exactly.

Sure, we believe that environment matters.  We think horses and chickens and cows help boys learn gentleness and patience.  We think exposure to God’s word can encourage life change.  We are confident that our attention to detail on the outside can make difference on the inside.

But when push comes to shove, a boy’s will to change matters more.  And whatever you call us – boys ranch, boarding school, group home, residential treatment center – we will never be able to make any of our boys give their hearts to God.  Ours is a spiritual battle that must be fought with spiritual weapons.

And so this morning, when we received the fantastically generous donation of a round pen for training our horses – or I could say for training our Will – I was reminded of both the similarities and differences between training horses and training boys.

Both need limits.  Both need love.  But only one is capable of being forced into submission.

The other, in the perfect future tense, will have been transformed only when he accepts God’s grace, and understands that God’s limits to our behavior demonstrate his love.

Only then, will God’s will be our boys’ will too.