Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Moral Superiority or Why It Might Be Okay Not To Homeschool

One thing I have been convicted of lately is my feeling of moral superiority. You know what I'm mean...the feeling that the decisions we make for ourselves and our families somehow make us morally superior to those who choose differently from us. It is excruciatingly prevalent in the homeschooling community. Many stay-at-home moms suffer from it.

It's the thinking that we have somehow tapped into God's plan and it's the only plan for lives. Not just our own lives, mind you, but all lives, everywhere. It's assuming there is only one way to do things. I don't believe God lives in a box who always does the same thing, in the same way, every time, for the same purpose. And this kind of thinking usually manifests itself in those "gray" areas. Areas in which the Bible may be open for interpretation.

Having felt both sides of the issue, I'm almost certain our moral superiority starts out unintentional which makes it all the more difficult to recognize. It is clearly a heart issue that can easily be exacerbated by segregating ourselves to groups of "like minds" where the eventual, possibly unintended outcome is the complete exclusion of "unlike minds". Where do we go from there?

All that to say, I don't believe everyone should homeschool. I sincerely believe that people who are interested and want to go that distance, should seek God's heart for their family. He can change our hearts; I know that from personal experience. So far, homeschooling feels like running a marathon on a treadmill or something else terrible and never-ending. Starting out is painfully difficult, especially if you don't know anything about teaching children or how they learn. Stuff they teach you at college when you become a teacher. It's not easy because you are inundated with information and resources. It requires a committed conviction and discipline. Maybe that's why we feel morally superior. We feel certain we are getting points up there for our sacrifice when our "sacrifice" is just a different means to the same end. We have freedom in Christ to teach our kids anyway we want.

For our family, though, it does seem like the best route. People certainly get bogged down in the reasoning though. There are numerous reasons and the whys and why nots of it all have already had their day on this blog. The point is that God moves us differently to different things, for different purposes. Even to homeschooling. Especially to homeschooling. Some homeschool because the quality of the education. That's not my reason because I believe an involved parent in the public school process could achieve the same results. I want to protect my children from bad people and bad influences. All the badness, really. But if Amish children who are protected from all infleunces, even VeggieTales, can get gunned down like animals in their one-room schoolhouse, then it's clear I really have no control. But homeschooling lets me feel like I do.

I even think it might be okay for my girls to go to college which is a change of pace from a previous post back in October 2006: Should We Encourage Our Daughters To Go To College? Read that post and you'll see my thinking has done a 180. Brian says education is it's own reward. At the time, I disagreed. Now, I know I want to train my daughters to seek God's voice and direction. I don't want to presume to know God's plan for their lives. I can only attest where He has guided me to and where He has guided me from. I can only carry them so far at which point they become responsible for their own actions. As a parent, not only is it our priority to equip them to make godly decisions by training them in the way they should go, it is our whole raison d'etre. Our families are our primary ministry grounds. But not the only one.

When we speak of training children up, I think a key component gets missed from that oft-repeated verse. In its entirety: Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6. It's easy to miss the part where the child actually goes, but what else could it mean? I want to be able to look myself in the mirror and know that I did everything I could do to put them on the right path. More importantly, I want God to know it, too. I want to feel confident that they will choose their paths well. In the end, it's up to them. It's naive to think that if I could only follow the checklist, I would get the intended result, and conversely, to believe that Christians who have trouble with their children didn't do enough. Simply put, there is no checklist, and as the saying goes, "past performance is no indicator of future returns." With God, I will never be able to do enough to ensure that our kids turn out godly. Works just can't.don't.won't. cut it. I'm just trying to figure it out and to think I somehow have a lock on it because I read a book, is just moral superiority.

What if, just to shake things up a little, I allow my daughters to seek God's guidance in choosing a husband? Or career? I absolutely want to be an integral part of every part of their lives. But I don't want to live their lives for them. I definitely expect to have input into these very important areas. I do not want to force my choices onto my children. Having made plenty of mistakes up until this point, I feel uniquely qualified to give advice on many topics. I am fostering a relationship now which I hope will encourage them to seek my counsel later. In the meantime, I am teaching them right from wrong and to listen to the Lord's voice.

But I'm not going to feel morally superior because this is the path we've taken. The Lord is showing me that not every issue is black and white.

The list goes on...

I have been incredibly smug in projecting His directions to me onto other people, even if it's only deep in my coal black heart. How presumptous to assume that I know God's best for everyone! If I were honest, I would have to admit that I struggle to know God's best for myself and how that relates to The Big Picture. I have a general idea, but should consult Him on the day-to-day. Lots of times I don't. There have been occasions I didn't even seek God on some of these issues. I heard about something and it sounded pretty good to me. Is is possible as a morally superior Christian, I make things harder on myself than they need to be by choosing difficult, unnecessary roads?

The Bible is clear that we are all differently gifted (check out Romans 12:6) and I know He is a God who is in the details. So why would He do something so plain as to be predictable? If He's anything, God is completely unpredictable, which is part of His charm. Besides, if God's best was the same for everyone, all the time, every time, we would never need to seek Him and that would make Jesus's place in all this, unnecessary. I already know that's not the case. I could just consult the checklist and move on to the next item.

But there is no checklist.

There's only God and only me. And that's it. And in the end, that's all that's going to matter anyway. I have to wonder if some of the benefits of these fine ideas get cashed out in this life when I harbor the sin of moral superiority. Which, after all, is just pride dressed up fancy.