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Failure - My Only Option (08/01/2010) To Publications / Articles - Failure - My Only Option (08/01/2010)

Posted 7/16/14
Laura Hazelip

The homeschool magazine arrives neatly wrapped in plastic, delivered by the mailman. As I walk from the mailbox looking through the clear wrapping, I plan my reading event for later in the week and anticipate all the wonderful encouragement I will glean. Excitement builds as I finally sit, open my new homeschool magazine and inhale the smell of the new ink and paper. With tea in hand, I anticipate a few stolen moments to read quietly and to just be.

            The glossy photo on the cover shows a large, smiling, neatly dressed, matching, family of homeschoolers. I open the cover and read the article inside about the events they volunteer at, accelerated classes they take, small business they run, books they have written, their homegrown organic garden, food prepared from scratch and home-spun clothing made from animals they raise and feed. My heart begins to sink as I compare myself. There is no hope of measuring up. They are so neat and perfect on those pages. Discouragement and grief set in.  I‘ve done it again: SELF-SABOTAGE!!!

            Discipline methods, unit studies, organic lifestyles and the multi-age learning look so easy and sweet there on the shiny paper. The results seem immediate.  How easy and effortless the teaching, cleaning, cooking, scheduling and organizing appear.

            It takes a moment for me to realize - while whining to God - that this article was not written on a bad or average day. We glimpse a perfect moment forever captured on a magazine cover, while our own victories seem fleeting as we contain the next disaster, or deal with the tears at the table over math . . . . again!

            We live in a society that fears failure or weakness of any kind. The worldly “vultures” smell the scent of failure and begin to circle and descend upon our weakened spirit. To avoid even a hint of our own struggle and to prevent broaching our exterior perfection, we bravely smile as others talk of their success at teaching phonics, advanced math, disciplining their 12 children and starting a new business while keeping their pre-baby figure and spotless home. Full of stinging doubt, we suspect that we will always miss the mark of the “Perfect Homeschooler” - a brave heroine poised atop a hill, eyes full of vision and purpose, wind flowing through her shiny hair, her cape forcefully blowing in the breeze of home education.

            Once and for all time, this imperfect homeschooler needs to confess in writing that our homeschool is frequently not all that it should or could be. We fail often at the simple tasks. We lose school books, skip spelling tests, cry over math, argue about chores, grapple for the best seat at the table, spend too much time on e-mail, and yes, stuff dirty dishes in the oven when there is an unexpected knock at the door!

            All I can do is continue in my calling, not perfectly but faithfully. All I can measure up to is what God has laid before me. Yet in my heart I know that the “Perfect Homeschooler” is there, right next door, ready to discover how miserably I fail!

            Why do we succumb to the world's expectations? Even the homeschooling world's expectations? Why don’t we find rest and peace in our Savior who declares that His burden is easy, His yolk is light? Our fear of failure causes us to hide our imperfections, yet only in our weakness can He be made strong.

            How frequently do we recount the tasks that were not done well or that we have failed at? Or measured ourselves according to what others are doing or have done?

            It is not ours to criticize. It is the Lord’s bidding we do. When we criticize ourselves for what we think we don’t do, we criticize Him for what we think He should be doing. Now, don’t get me wrong; we can’t stay up too late, spend all day in bed, neglect our home and children and expect them to be well-educated and to grow. What we can do is what God has called us to, step by step, stone by stone, precept upon precept, here a little there a little.

            2 Corinthians 4:7-10 is one of my favorite passages: “ But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed, we are perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed.” (NKJ)

            How can we fail if we are wholly turned over to the power and might of God? If we truly surrender our will and our expectation to that of the cross? Our children are entrusted to us for their discipleship and care. There is no time to doubt God‘s calling and no cause for comparing to others around us.

            Matthew 15:7-9 warns about the debates of the Pharisees and Scribes: “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you saying: These people draw near to Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from me and in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men.”  (NKJ)

            Run away rather than teach as doctrine the commandments of men. What you do WILL look different than that of the world, even the home school world, but you must be faithful to God’s calling. Each family is called to a different education path while walking towards the same destination of the discipleship of our children’s hearts.

            Stop trying to be “Perfect Homeschooler.” Stop thinking that there are some - or any of us - who have it all together. We are sinners, not saved by our wonderful homeschooling, but “saved by grace, not of ourselves, it is a gift of God: not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. “ (Eph. 2: 8-9 NKJ)

            Put out your dirty, wretched heart, I'll take my dirty, wretched heart, and together let’s walk in the redemptive power of the cross, where we are made righteous, and let's help each other along this education lifestyle we have chosen. Share your burden with Him, keep your eyes focused on Him and let’s walk in victory towards the goal He has laid before us.