You're Not Alone
- 2007 30 Jul
I find myself feeling discouraged, burned out, on the verge of giving up. I ask myself, "Mama, what happened? Have you been holding a grudge, struggling with a bad attitude? Did you make some mistakes somewhere? Instead of wallowing in the pit you've dug for yourself, how about finding a way out of it? Where can you go in the Word of God that would give you an example to follow? What does God have to say to you now?"
When I find myself experiencing these kinds of times, God says the same thing to me that He said to the prophet Elijah: pick yourself up and move on; you've got a job to do.
"And when he [Elijah] saw that, he arose, and went for his life... and said, It is enough... and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah? And he said... I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away... And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice ... Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room... Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him." (1 Kings 3–18)
Elijah had just literally had a mountaintop experience. He had been a part of an awesome display of God's power, but he was only human. He, too, was susceptible to fear, doubt, worry. The mighty prophet of God, who performed incredible miracles and showed unparalleled faith in a time of great ungodliness, when faced with an unexpected challenge beyond what he was prepared to handle, quit and ran. He did not stop to ask God for direction. He didn't think before he acted. He just ran, until he came to a wilderness. There he stopped. What was his obstacle this time? An unbelieving community? Idol worship? Religious persecution? No, it was the wilderness of doubt, self-pity, and lack of faith. "There's no one else out there, God! Do You realize that? I'm the only one! Are You aware of what I've been through lately? I can't take this anymore! Now there are people after me--it's too much! What am I supposed to do now? I've had enough!"
I love God's first response. "What are you doing here, Elijah? I didn't send you here. This isn't where I need you to be." God doesn't speak with thunder, lightning, or fierce winds, but with a still, small voice. He sends Elijah to another wilderness, but this time he'll be following God's itinerary. God has work for Elijah to do. It's time for Elijah to move on. At the end of His instructions, God mentions, "Oh, by the way, that comment about being the only one left? You're not. There are seven thousand other faithful followers of mine in Israel. You're not alone."
We may be parents instead of prophets, but God has appointed us to an important task as well, and we, too, can be sidetracked. We are surrounded by children all day, every day--their noise, their mess, their questions, their excitement, their bickering, their interference. It's not all bad--there are many wonderful things about homeschooling our children, besides the benefits they are gaining academically. Their excitement can be contagious. Their cheer is inspiring. Their eager minds and trusting faces are encouraging. We get to see improvement in their academics, answers to prayer, new-found maturity. We appreciate the sweet blessings of seeing the light go on in a difficult subject, or being present for a spontaneous interest in the deeper issues of our faith. However, our children are still just that: children. They are clay that needs to be molded, but our hands get tired of shaping, don't they? Besides our sore muscles and an aching back, we face the challenge of shaping new vessels when we ourselves are marred. How can the clay mold the clay? Perhaps that's part of our problem. Are there times when we try to take over the Potter's job? Maybe we need to surrender control to God, as Elijah needed to do with his situation.
As homeschool parents, the challenges don't always arise out of the circumstances around us. Sometimes they develop from within us. How often have we created the hurricanes, earthquakes, and raging infernos in our lives? Have there been times in our lives when God has stood before us and asked, "What are you doing here? I didn't send you here. This isn't where I need you to be." As we place our hands around a lump of small, soft clay, an image of a beautiful vase or sturdy pitcher in our mind, we begin to fashion it on our wheel. The clay's stubborn will, independent spirit, and selfishness stare us boldly in the face, and we are no longer sculpting with clay; we are looking in a mirror. We could pull back our hands and convince ourselves we are not equipped to continue this work: "I did not have the proper schooling. I don't have the natural talent. I've already messed up enough stuff in my own life without moving on to wreck someone else's life, too. I should just stop right here." We could offer each of these arguments in our defense, even follow through on our threats. Where would we be then? Where we want to be? Where we're supposed to be? Or in a wilderness of our own making? No matter how we feel emotionally, no matter what other issues are bothering us, one fact remains--we have a responsibility. We have a job to do. We have to move on.
What do we do about the other issues in our lives causing inner turmoil? God listened to Elijah and encouraged him. He did not give him a list of answers, except to correct the false misconceptions. God told him, "Okay, you've had a setback. It happens. Now, get up and go on. I need you. I can still use you. I'm not through with you yet."
So here I am, my head in my hands, my heart on the floor where I've trampled it to pieces, and God says to me, "Mama, there's laundry to fold, bathrooms to clean, meals to prepare, little ones to read to, papers to sort, books to put away, students to teach, husbands to encourage. These things don't get done, or at least don't get done well, when your heart is burdened with other things. God has heard you. He has been beside you through your entire ordeal. You have not ruined everything. I still want to work with you. Now, this time--of reflection, regret, self pity, whatever it is--is over. Pack up and move on. You have a job to do." Perhaps one of the greatest blessings of them all comes in His parting words to me: "And, Mama, by the way, there's one more thing you should know. You're not alone."
Gretel Deem enjoys writing, reading, studying the Bible, swim teaching, public speaking, homeschooling, and spending time with her husband and 3 children (8 years, 7 years, and 15 months) in the great outdoors of northern Michigan.
This article was originally published in the July/Aug '07 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. For more details, visit http://HomeSchoolEnrichment.com