- 2007 25 Jun
I used to think I homeschooled for my children. Through homeschooling I would teach them about Jesus, give them a strong academic foundation, develop their moral character, and bind us together in family love.
After 16 years of homeschooling, I still hold onto these hopes (though with less idealism), but I'm finding that the Lord in all His wisdom chose homeschooling for me. As my children have learned to read, simply fractions, and write essays, I have learned a much more valuable lesson. I've learned how much I need Jesus.
Homeschooling is a tool in God's hand used to unmask me.
Before I began homeschooling I had a job away from home. I could drive there, work hard, get along with my co-workers and please my boss--at least most of the time. I could maintain a certain image--project a measure of success.
Then I had my first child. While beautiful and the delight of my life, she was also a colicky baby with long crying fits. It didn't matter how hard I tried, there were times I couldn't make her happy. Three boys quickly followed and with those four precious children came mounds of laundry, incessant clutter, and unending emotional demands.
I went into motherhood planning to play with my children, never putting my work before their needs. I'd give them tons of love and attention, cook fabulous meals, always understand their needs, and never become impatient.
Then, as if I didn't have enough to feel guilty about, I entered the world of homeschooling, holding to another set of ideals about a home-centered, God-centered, academic life. My children would put God first because I showed them how. They would love to learn because I would make it so much fun. They would be free to express themselves creatively and fully while I kept a beautiful home and even temperament.
You can probably guess where all that idealism got me. I wasn't a perfect Christian so I couldn't show them how to be one. Not only was school sometimes plain ole hard work, but I discovered I often didn't have the energy to even try to make it fun. Creative expression and a clean house were usually in opposition and all the times I didn't live up to my ideals didn't help me keep an even temperament.
Often, I struggled with feelings of intense inadequacy, even failure, as I realized I couldn't be all I wanted to be. On those really bad days when I lost my temper or felt I'd accomplished nothing, I wrestled with my self-worth.
Being home full-time, struggling to keep all those mothering and teaching balls in the air exposed a vastly imperfect me.
And sometimes I didn't like myself at all.
That's when I met Jesus in a new way.
As God peeled off my mask as an accomplished, godly woman, He began reveal to me precious truths I hadn't understood before. First, He whispered His unconditional regard.
I'd known most of my life that Jesus died to forgive me for my sins, but somehow I'd gotten the impression that once I'd accepted His sacrifice, it was up to me to be perfect. When I fell short in my ability to parent or homeschool, I agonized over it. Sometimes my failures made me hide from God. Self-condemnation could overwhelm me.
Our tender God taught me (and is still teaching me) that His love and acceptance has nothing to do with my performance. I can run to Him when I blow it. He knows I will sometimes mess-up and He wants to help me through it. Christ's blood has covered my sins and there is truly no condemnation in His eyes. As He looks at me, He sees Christ's cleansing perfection instead of my failures.
Another thing I'm learning is that God wants my identity to be fully in Him and not in how well I perform. I can tell when my identity is misplaced. A child doesn't test as well as I think he should and I fear I'm a failure as his teacher. One of my children misbehaves in public and I think I've fallen short as a parent.
Even success can remind me that I'm putting my identity in my performance instead of in Christ. Sometimes a compliment can puff me up and I glory in the accolades, patting myself on the back.
Putting faith in my ability to perform keeps me on a roller coaster of success and failure, feeling good about myself when I succeed and disgusted when I don't. God doesn't want me to live that way. He wants me to daily experience the peaceful foundation of the identity He offers me, one not based upon my performance, but upon my position as a beloved daughter of the King of the universe.
No one can be perfect all the time. No matter how hard we try we will have times we don't measure up. We can either wallow in our inadequacy or allow our neediness to press us into the arms of Jesus.
As homeschooling moms, it is natural to hope our years of effort will make a difference in the lives of our children and in their future impact on eternal things. It is right and good to enjoy the fruits of our labor. But homeschooling isn't all about the children. We can reap great personal reward if we allow the demands of our chosen lifestyle to peel back our masks. If we have the courage to do so, we can then issue an invitation for Christ to join us in this authentic place. As we stand vulnerable and needy before Him, our Savior will begin a new work within us.
This fresh touch of His Spirit will help us live real before the world and our children, accepting both our successes and our failures. It will draw us more often to our knees and teach us to live in humble integrity. And with it will come a more peaceful heart. This heart will know its inadequacy, but will also accept the love and empowerment of the King of Kings.
It is time to let our Lord peel back our masks.
A homeschooling mother of four, Paula Moldenhauer is passionate about God's grace. She is published in magazines, book compilations, and devotionals. Paula loves hiking, cuddling her kids, good books, and walking barefoot. Her website, www.soulscents.us, offers homeschooling hints, book reviews, and a free weekly devotional.