© 2011 by Susan Kemmerer, Schoolhouse Publishing
“Mom, look! A perfectly toasted marshmallow!” my oldest son, Michael, gleefully shouted.
I looked up from my book. Sure enough, he held out to me a fork where was mounted a plump marshmallow expertly cooked to a delicate golden brown. He popped the delicacy into his mouth and munched happily away. Nice….if we had been at a campground, and if we had been sitting in front of a campfire and if the marshmallow had been perched on the end of a camping fork. But none of these scenarios was the case. Instead we were in the living room and the golden confection was perched on the end of a dinner fork.
“How did you toast that marshmallow???” I questioned suspiciously. I tend to be pretty “up” on these things, and immediately recognized something shady going on.
“Oh, it was easy,” Michael patiently explained. You have to explain things patiently when your parents are aging. They don’t often “get” things right away. “I just turned the stove burner on high, and toasted the marshmallow over the burner. Easy.”
Oh, indeed. Where did I go wrong??? Or, didn’t I?
“The LORD will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever; do not forsake the works of Your hands.” Psalm 138:8
I find myself waffling back and forth between pride (“I homeschool.”) and shame (“I’m failing!”). Do you do the same? I don’t mean to be puffed up, but the reality is that we have chosen the moral high road when we made the choice to homeschool. I do try to keep the pride out of my voice when people ask, “Where do your children go to school?”. But, even if I keep the pride out of my voice, I know it’s there in my heart, insidiously growing. I homeschool….therefore I am.
“For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” I Corinthians 4:7
The other side of the “waffle” is shame. So often I look at what I haven’t accomplished. My children aren’t academic icons. They are very average. My house is often a mess. Please call before you drop by, and give me at least a half-hour to straighten up.
If choosing to homeschool is the moral high road, then the choices I make within those homeschooling parameters insure that the moral high road is full of potholes and rabbit trails that continually tempt me off the path. It doesn’t leave me much to boast about!
“O my soul, you have said to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord, my goodness is nothing apart from you.’” Psalm 16:2
I am continually coming to realize that without God, I would be unable to accomplish even the little that I do accomplish. People say, “I could never do what you do. I could never….., I don’t have the patience,….I could never…” Well, neither could I. Neither do I. Only God knows the shame I carry or the struggles I have. Are my children being educated properly? Have I been too easy? Is their character strong enough to keep them pure in the face of temptation? Have I been consistent enough? Praise the Lord, that He has been faithful in spite of my failure. Our family is strong. My children’s character is good. But I cannot take credit.
“Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” Psalm 127:1
I homeschool, therefore I am. I am a picture of God’s mercy toward a miserable sinner. I am an example of what God can accomplish with very little. I am a message to those around me of God’s creative power, redemptive love, and great wisdom. I was a broken, cracked vessel – but God has chosen to use me anyway (even though I still tend to be somewhat cracked). I am His child – a child of the King, a princess.
And so are you. You who are reading this – you are in the exact same position, the exact same condition. You, too, are that picture, that example, that message from God to a lost and dying world. Praise God for His great love toward us!
“You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart. And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God…” 2 Corinthians 3: 2-5
The trick, then, is to recognize our human condition and not grow proud over what we do accomplish. We need to be open to true Holy Spirit conviction over our failures and not be tempted to write off conviction as “condemnation.” When people tell me that I’m being too hard on myself, I know I need to seek the Lord and find out if I am being too hard on myself – or is He convicting me of laziness or complacency or any number of sins.
As I struggle each day with whether or not I am accomplishing enough, I watch my children, and I see them growing. Perhaps it seems slow to me. They aren’t spiritual giants – and neither am I. But I can see God’s grace in them, just as I recognize it in myself. They are really and truly neat kids, sweet kids. They are fun to be around and likable. I know that God will be able to use them, just as He uses me, as living epistles of His grace and strength in weak, earthen vessels.
“My soul shall make its boast in the LORD; the humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together.” Psalm 34:2-3
I homeschool, therefore I am. Really? If I accomplish anything worthwhile today, which I will, it is because of Him. If the kids actually put forth some academic effort and learn the lessons well today, it is because of the Holy Spirit’s input in their lives. If I actually get caught up on the housework, it’s because He ordered my steps. If someone notices all that I do, and marvels, it is because He is using me as a living epistle. I must learn to seize those opportunities when people marvel over our family and witness to those individuals of God’s mercy. Indeed “my soul shall make its boast in the Lord…let us exalt His name together!”
“And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’” Luke 17:7-10
The footnote for this passage in my Bible says “If we have obeyed God, we have only done our duty and we should regard it as a privilege. Do you sometimes feel that you deserve extra credit for serving God? Remember, obedience is not something extra we do; it is our duty.” (Tyndale’s Life Application Bible, NIV version)
I homeschool, therefore I am. Homeschooling helps to define my season and purpose in life right now. I rejoice that I have the privilege. I pray homeschooling’s refining influence changes me into a vessel that brings glory to God’s name. My hope is in the Lord. I lay down my pride. I am nothing. I homeschool, because He IS.