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.


Lindsay said...

You said:
"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."

I also honestly believe that our moral superiority starts begins as a (sometimes subconscious) doubt or insecurity that what we're doing is exactly the right thing. You know that feeling of second-guessing yourself? I think we overreact to that feeling - if we can convince others that what we're doing is THE RIGHT THING, then maybe we'll be just a little bit more sure that we are doing the right thing.

I'm not saying we're sitting around thinking this. But with any life path that you choose, there are going to be hard times. And in those hard times, it's not uncommon to start thinking of all of the reasons that this might NOT be the right thing to do. I think anyone who's homeschooled longer than 15 minutes has experienced those times. But when we choose to act out those insecurities by trying to convince others that what we're doing is right, we are often taking a road that leads to legalism - all in order to silence the doubts we won't even acknowledge that we have.

Maybe this isn't everyone's experience, but I think it occurs more often than people would like to admit.

Anonymous said...

I think Moral Superiority can start from a good place. You want to spread the joy and peace that you have received by advising others but it can certainly go astray.
I think this read as a really great sermon. You should share your ideas with your pastor or lead a bible study group some time.

Anonymous said...

That last comment was from Kellie. :D

Anonymous said...

A great big giant AMEN!! Well said, all of it!


Nancy said...

I appreciate the comment on moral
superiority. I have felt grieved
over this issue, also. I have found that we need to watch out how we are spending our time. Do we just spend our time with homeschoolers talking about homeschooling. Homeschooling is just a word to differentiate where our children are being schooled. In the restarting of homeschooling in our country, it was very difficult and awkward. We tended to quietly join homeschooling cliques for strength and support. As homeschooling became a little more accepted, we began to become louder. We were questioned and accused, so we decided to begin comparing ourselves with the public schooled kids and the private schooled kids. This has been done in a very prideful way. Yes, it was difficult having, even our christian brothers and sisters accusing us of wrong. Our measure is not the public schools or anyone else, but Jesus Christ. If we look to Jesus, we will always fall short and be humbled. My youngest has just graduated this year. We were part of a christian homeschooling ISP. We had quarterly meetings to go over requirements, and to encourage one another, but we did not have activities. We had opportunities to be part of a local homeschooling group. We did not join. The leaders of the group had to spend a lot of time keeping the group together, planning field trips, writing a newsletter and etc. This was time taken away from their families, even though their families got to go on the field trips. I did not have time to put into the group, nor did I feel right about the other moms spending time on my family, when it should be spent on their own. The other reason we did not join was for this reason of being morally superior.
If I spend the majority of my time, thinking, and ministry with a group of homeschooling moms, it is going to affect how I look at the world.
I am not in competition with the
other schools. They are not my
measure, nor do I have to prove that I can do the same or better
without them. I don't have to
join a homeschool group to give my
children social skills. Most of the time, the social skills learned are not godly, anyway. Moms should be in the Word and doing all they can to make sure their children are learning the meat of the Word.
I am to help prepare my children to
have compassion on the lost. This does not mean having ungodly friends for our children. We are to protect them--even against having ungodly homeschooled friends. We have many opportunities to encourage other moms without belonging to a group. We are to spend time and have fellowship with other believers who will not pull your children to the way of the world and who encourage your children to honor you as you seek to nurture them in the way they should go. Just because you are discouraged with how homeschoolers are thinking they are morally superior, watch yourself. It sounds like you are on the road to some day in the future--throwing in the towel. You could use this in your mind as your first excuse for quitting.

I have three daughters, ages 23, 21 and 19. They are a blessing, not because of us, but because God is good and He has honored our desire to please ONLY HIM.

I am sorry if I said too much, but
I want to share how good God has been in directing our steps.

Thank you.