How it all startedThoughts On The Painful Examination We Endure When Critiquing Our Own Parental Decisions

“We are just God’s instruments. It’s all up to Him.”  My friend Nancy sent that to me today.  I count myself richly blessed by the friendship of Nancy and her husband, who often encourage me, challenge me, and have literally “been there for me” when I needed them, even at great cost to themselves.   Too modest to post their wisdom as comments, they emailed me some thoughts they had after reading my Prince post.   I couldn’t in good conscience keep these gems to myself; here they are:

The home often presents a unique opportunity for seeing the sin nature in its uninhibited and unrestrained repulsiveness.  We often see each other at our worst in the home and the increased stress from homeschooling only adds to that pressure.  There’s very little opportunity to hide a pet sin when you’re with someone for 12-16 hours per day.  This is a double-edged sword since it gives us insight into character issues that need to be addressed, but it also can leave us feeling like we’re living with a monster.  Be encouraged to know that the sins we commit don’t define the person we become.

Sometimes it gets so tiring to keep on keeping on.  It was a challenge to me to not let things slide with [my student] because I know conflict will ensue.  With said child, life is always peachy as long as you don’t correct or bestir the waters.  Waters can be murky enough and sometimes it’s just easier to overlook seemingly smaller offenses.  Which, if addressed, seem to turn into a LARGE deal.

It’s encouraging that we can leave the ultimate responsibility for our kids’ character development in His [God’s] hands.  We are privileged to play a part in the process, but He knows that we are flawed human beings.  Everyone bears the responsibility for his own actions and reactions.  While we may cringe at a parental choice we’ve made, a word we’ve spoken (or neglected), or the “road not taken,” only He can address the real heart issues at the root of surface problems.

So that’s it.  Just pray.  Just do it.  Stop trying to find the right recipe of rules, hugs, and consequences while simultaneously begging for divine intervention.  Stop praying for sunshine while donning my poncho.

The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.  Psalm 28:7

So thankful for the gift of friends…

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The Prince and the Pupil

Were I a sailboat I’d presently be foundering on the homeschool doldrums.   By chance I also happen to be reading The Prince by Machiavelli, a sort of rule book for tyrants.  Machiavelli writes, “Men ought either to be well-treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot.”    So is it a coincidence that I’m reading about how to be a successful despot whilst I have a tenuous grip on homeschoolland, and the subjects are revolting?  (Take both those words both ways.)  I think not.

It is tempting to shift from my status quo well treatment to a more crushing academic existence because I want to effect quick, decisive change in my students. The afflictions have been light so far, in the hope of deferring war.  As it happens, Machiavelli also has an opinion on that.   “A blunder ought never to be perpetrated to avoid war, because it is not to be avoided, but is only deferred to your disadvantage.”   My blunder has been to allow laziness or shoddy work in order to keep the peace.  Which leaves me wondering what disadvantage I’ve created for myself by staving off this confrontation?   Something like, the price for a month’s peace and quiet will cost you two days of emotional paralysis and academic poverty when you finally stop pretending everything’s ok.   That is where I find myself:  unable to decide whether to continue to treat my prodigal pupil well or crush said pupil.   According to The Prince those are my only two options.

God would have me look elsewhere.  The heart.   Laws or corrective measures change the outer man while leaving the heart completely unscathed.    And I’ve often heard from the pulpit, the figuratively crushed heart is the only appropriate response to habitual sin.  I cannot crush anyone’s heart; and (except perhaps on the worst days) I don’t wish to try.  But God can.  And does.  And it’s always a miraculous spectacle to witness.   So I trust He’ll decide how to handle me and my homeschool, whether to crush us or treat us well.  Whichever way it goes we can still fulfill God’s will.  And I can rest in that, even on the days when I’m stuck in the doldrums waiting for a fresh breeze to take me somewhere new.