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From every corner of the world of home education, I pulled images of how ‘our school’ might be – most of them in conflict with each other, and none a perfect picture of how ‘our school’ actually was.
I could see our classical school – kids neatly dressed, friends over for chess and dialectic – turning out scholars like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein. I dreamed of “Lifestyle Learning,” with education tucked into every moment of the day – museum-like collections on every flat surface, illustrated notebooks for each subject, a microscope at hand in the kitchen, backpacks always ready with nature journals and good pencils.
Unit Study seemed so appealing. We could be immersed in the Middle Ages via salt dough, period costumes, Usborne books and stew in stale-bread trenchers. The Fast Track had its appeal, too. I pictured my kids pointed to The End via a series of neatly ordered lessons. The only limit to their release into freedom would be their personally chosen speed of attack. They might say things like, “If I get my Phd, will you buy me a new bike?” Their own incentives would move them forward almost effortlessly and we’d have a stack of tests and certificates to prove what they had accomplished.
Unschooling was a lot like a “learning lifestyle,” but easier yet, because it would be “delight-directed” and require no record-keeping. We’d practically live at the library. At home, I’d happen upon children engrossed in projects of their own choosing. I’d try not to point out the educational value, and keep them supplied with high-quality tools and materials in timely fashion. We’d bake…we’d travel…we’d garden…or, not.
The way it actually turned out was a strange and changing mix I called “Eclectic” to make it sound more like “Education.” New babies kept throwing us ‘off our groove,’ but in a good way. Just as I hit my stride, they all grew up and went on into college…or, not. The thing I miss most – oh, ouch…. – is reading aloud to them. I know I could have done a lot better at many aspects of homeschooling, but overall, I’ve enjoyed these years and been happy with the results. Meanwhile, I got an education along the way that is a priceless treasure.
I once sang a duet with a friend at the front of our church sanctuary. By the end, we both – though of robust voice – were singing so very softly that we could hardly be heard. Afterward – when we stopped laughing – we tried to figure out what in the world had happened to us.
One of us thought she was over-loud, and so took the decibel level down a notch. But then the other felt conspicuously loud, and did the same. And on it went. Ridiculous, but true.
The moral of this embarrassing tale is: don’t sing down! Don’t adjust the level of your enthusiasm, your energy, your intensity to try to ‘fit’ the level of another person. Even if you feel somewhat ‘loud’ in comparison, just, please, sing on!
This feels awful, and it’s only partially helpful to know that someone’s inability to love you is their problem, not yours. The only real cure is to love. Find somebody you can love hugely, with open affection, with words and deeds, with generosity. As you give, so it will be given back to you, but a hundredfold! Fill your love bucket by pouring out love wherever you can.
It’s an uncomfortable thing to become aware of your own lack of excellence. The only cure is to work at and to give of your less-than-greatness. The work may improve you, and the giving-anyway will help teach you humility. Humility is a plus for the greatest and least of artists, learners, mothers, or whatever your area of weakness.
Being in Pain
Whether your pain is emotional, or physical, you’ve got a real burden to bear. The only cure is to suffer creatively. There’s no good way to avoid pain entirely (distraction and drugs may help, but one doesn’t want to go too far in that direction). To suffer it creatively is to release it to Christ as whole-heartedly as possible, turning it into a prayer for your intentions, or asking Him to use it as He will.
Hard things often need a simple, direct approach. When you’re suffering, a complex one may make things worse.
The Church is a huge organization, made up of human beings who are broken, flawed, sinful. As such, She has been deeply wounded by the implosion of the disordered culture around Her, just as individuals have been hurt. Let’s let God do the work of reviving Her from above (yes, we church-mice can stop trying to be God, the Pope, the Bishop!) and see what can be done to revive Her from where we actually stand.
Down here, at the level of the individual believer, the family, the local community, there’s so much we can do to effect real change, real revival – but we don’t do it. We don’t, because a) it’s easier to theorize about what the higher-ups should be doing and b) we don’t believe small things can make any difference until big issues are resolved. Idealism doesn’t make it into actuality and pessimism gives in to what is already real in the situation. Neither has potency, and neither is worthy of a Christian person.
The very message of the Incarnation is exactly that the small, the lowly, the local is what changes all the greatness of the world! You may still have opinions (I do!) about what the Pope or God could do, but the real power is in your own free action here, now. Through the actuality of your smallness comes the Actuality of God’s greatness. Real calls to real, Deep to deep, Light to light, and you are at the center of this movement of the Holy Spirit – invited merely to obstruct or conduct the flow of that power by your own action. Your sphere of response-ability grows as your freedom grows, by each free act (but it won’t likely grow to become the Whole Church or the World, or even Kansas!)
In that light, your little self is just one of many little ‘switches’ in the Body of Christ, saying ‘yes,’ or ‘no’ to His work in the world. Please begin your work of revolutionizing the world by learning to let your yes be your yes, and your no be your no. It is sad to me when this simple, Scriptural admonition seems beyond the capability of a fellow Christian. We ask “How’s your prayer life?” but not “Can you make a commitment and keep it?”
If you say you will do something, can I count on that? Can you make a promise and keep it? Is it enough to have your word, or do I need a signed contract and the force of law?
If you’ve broken a promise to me, I forgive you, but it did hurt. I’m more worried about what it means about you. I notice that what seems to weaken us is lack of memory, and confusion or disorganization in time management. These can be cultivated, so I suggest this in all seriousness as a better use of our time and energy than complaining about whatever God, or the Pope, Bishop or parish priest is doing, or not doing.
I have other ideas for very small, powerful things you can actually do (they are in your sphere of response-ability) that will have actual, revolutionary, kingdom-bringing effects. Watch this space!