Saturday, June 20, 2009

Women of Grace

This cartoon is only funny if you’re coming out on the other side of this life. Most of us as former trying-to-be-perfect home schoolers on the performance track know that this sort of thing can be a focal point causing many sleepless nights. I believe that anyone who has spent any amount of time as a home schooler knows what I’m talking about.

There is an extra burden in the performance-based world of institutional Christianity for us. We feel the burden of being absolutely responsible for all our children’s development, moral choices, and most of all, spiritual walk.We are inundated with “experts” who lord over us and make us feel incapable. Listen to us, they say. We have perfect grown children; we’ve been home schooling for at least 25 years. We’ve been in ministry for longer than that. We can quote tons of Scripture and we’ve written lots of material telling dummies like you how to interpret and apply it. If you buy our books and copy our methods, you too will gain interplanetary alignment and domestic bliss. If it doesn’t work, you have unconfessed sin in your life or you’re just not trying hard enough.

As former institutional-mindset people, we’ve all been subject to this general line of reason by those who are ‘authorities.’ It’s certainly burdensome enough to try to pull this off for your own salvation. It’s unbearable when you’re trying to do it for your children. The enemy really knows how to pull the strings. Those of us who love our children want to do the very best for them, but following the above theology locks us into a mindset that our best just isn’t good enough. One popular “teacher” in the conservative home school realm flatly states that “we as parents are responsible for our children’s souls.”

I am so glad that Father has led some of us out of that awful place. I am glad to have come to realize the foundational flaws in such theology. To follow the ‘experts’ advice instead of our own hearts is to treat them as Old Testament priests. But we are all priests in the Lord now. To see ourselves as responsible for our children’s souls is making us God. I am glad to finally see the meaning of “rest in the Lord.” He is my child’s ultimate parent – I am here to be a human guide and protector.

It is frightening how badly blinded many home schooling parents are by intimidating ‘experts’ who remind you of ‘how high the stakes are’ when reminding parents of their duty to flawless diligence at all times. As though our children’s immortal soul really is in our hands and not Father’s.

I am thrilled that Father has led me to talk with other women who were caught up in this world and now recovering. I especially want to thank Kim, Kirsten and Marie, who have been women of grace to me. Kim had her own tribute on but I want to give her another kudos here for being open and honest about the fact that she can’t fix everything perfect for her children, nor ensure a spotless outcome by formulas or her speckless performance as a parent. Instead, she emphasizes what is really important – a real heart connection with our children. This is something I believe all parents would do well to take to heart.

Marie is a very laid back and mellow person. She is now a former homeschool mom, but she spent some time running around the track. I didn’t get a chance to meet her children, but I imagine they are probably some of the happiest and most well nurtured children on the planet with such a mellow, gentle mom. I am sorry that she doesn’t live closer to me. But how glad I am that we have gotten to meet and hopefully will again!

Marie’s gentle ways and quiet thoughtfulness are a stark contrast to the in-your-face, “Train Up A Child” – flapping zealots that I spent way too much time around for years in home school circles. I can never in a million years imagine her shoving unsolicited advice on anyone, let alone another mom. I can never imagine her boasting on how much better behaved her children are.  I can’t imagine her judging another parent. Her wry sense of humor is thoughtful and encouraging.

Kirsten and I “met” online only a few weeks before we were able to meet in person in CA. Almost immediately we began trading “war stories” via email about our experiences in the home school world. It was amazing how similar our experiences were. We felt judged and looked down on by our own “friends” and “support groups.”  We were caught on the “never enough” performance track so often popular in conservative Christian mothering and marriage teachings. Yet it was cathartic to be able to laugh together at ourselves, our experiences, the things that used to bind us.

We have reassured each other that we aren’t perfect. We have shared the “gasp!” truth about many things. Neither of us keep a particularly tidy house, a super trim figure, or a rigid academic schedule. We both let our kids eat junk food, watch TV, and disobey without punishing them with ‘the rod.’ We don’t fit the submissive wife mold or the tireless mother model. We’re both capable of downing a pan of brownies by ourselves. I will admit to having done so on more than one occasion. Thank you ladies, for being human with me – for not only admitting that you’re human, but for laughing about it with me, and understanding my struggles. Thank you for being women of grace in my life.

(cartoon courtesy of Todd Wilson, Family Man Ministries)