Tough Questions People Ask
by Craig Smith
Under extreme pressure, I elected to send the children to school last year. At first they loved it (and I hated it!) I was more stressed trying to get them ready, do homework I didn’t understand, and I just didn’t see them much or know what they were doing. As time went on, complaints started that someone was picking on me, or the work is too hard and stuff like that. It became a real grind for all of us. In the end, after one and a half terms I took them out again, and I really hope I never ever put them back in school. I still have the same troubles at home, I doubt, I think I’m holding them back, I slack off at times, I get grumpy and frustrated, the kids fight and don’t want to work and so on. How can I keep going? — (Home educator in New Zealand, March 2003.)
For what it’s worth, I’d like to talk about vision.
When you have a fire in your belly, when you are passionate about something, when you have this goal out there in front of you that just so motivates you every time you think about it that you can’t wait to drop whatever you’re currently doing and get back to it…..this is vision.
With vision nothing is a problem. The old saying, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” becomes your life’s theme song. Things that to normal people become hurdles and barriers – lack of income, stress, criticism, self-doubt, tiredness, children who are disobedient and factious – these problems melt away for a person with vision, for the glory of what they see out there ahead far, far exceeds the hassles they have to deal with up close. Paul the Apostle said the same in Romans 8:18, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” His mind was fixed on a vision, a goal, a reward, an objective out there in the future that was so exciting and glorious, it enabled him to put up with all sorts of garbage in the meantime…and dangerous things, too, like being stoned and left for dead, persecuted and chased from town to town, beat up and imprisoned, etc.
When you look at this vision, this goal out there in the future, the things up close shrink in size, become as temporary encumbrances that you may even simply shake off or push aside. A freight train rumbling along toward its goal at the end of the line is not easily slowed down or derailed. A person so motivated by their own vision will normally so intimidate, awe, bluff, convince, scare, inspire or otherwise affect onlookers that these onlookers will either not bother to be a hindrance, not themselves inspired or motivated to opposition, or they will join you!
So how does one get such a vision and then how does one maintain it?
Read visionary material. Talk to visionary people. Listen to visionary tapes & CDs. Gather with other visionaries at home education workshops.1
We have long said that in home education, the best and most important thing is to read good books to your children. We would now modify that and say the best and most important thing is to read good books yourself. What you the parent read and listen to and watch yourself is ultimately more important than what you read to them or allow them to watch or listen. Why? Because what determines your reading/watching/listening habits will determine what you do with and build into your children.
This is what has driven Barbara and I for 25 years of married life. We never wanted our children to be run-of-the-mill good all-round children. We wanted them to be total misfits…in a good sense….people who were going to be trained up to be part of the solution rather than simply remain part of the problem. Never once did the idea that we might be seen as different or odd bother us: it was seen as part of the territory, almost a guide that we were on the right track! We have always told the children that there are three kinds of people in the world: the tiny minority who make things happen; the much larger group who watch things happen; and then the vast majority who ask, “Hey, what happened?” We did not give them an option: we told them that we and they are to be part of that first group, end of story.
People tell us of how they need time out for themselves, to refresh, to relax, to focus on something else, to develop themselves in another area. I have a lot of sympathy for these sentiments. I have a number of hobbies I really enjoy. I have bought many books I would love to read. Into these things I have invested much time and money in the past. They have languished for many years now, covered in the dust of inattention. Why? Because, as I perceive it, apart from short breaks to re-group and re-focus, and as long as we pace ourselves wisely, the glory of the vision diminishes (and sometimes eliminates) the impact of the frustrations close in, meaning over all, the stress is less!
That is to say, we do not seem to have a dichotomy of the daily grind on the one hand from which we would like a spell, and on the other hand the blessed holiday breaks to which we are constantly looking forward. Every day is to us a holiday…not that we can just suit ourselves and blob out….that is a state into which we can settle for about 45 minutes max, and then we get really uncomfortable thinking about all the time we’re wasting, all the profitable things we could be doing.2 No, every day is a holiday in that we are doing what we really want to do! We are looking forward to each new day and squeezing from each as much as we can! We burn the candle at both ends in this quest. We are exhausted every night but are up same time each morning diving straight into our tasks.
We are now fully occupied with working for home educators in many ways. We each put in about 50 hours a week for the Home Education Foundation here in New Zealand; we contribute time, effort and resources to three local support groups; the nationally heard Radio Rhema now has us doing a live half hour slot once a fortnight; and the Keystone Journal of Christian Home Schoolers which we publish for the Foundation is dedicated to this very thing…developing vision in Home Educators. This is part of our vision: to help others, dads in particular, catch a vision for how incredibly powerful can be their impact, and the impact of their family and the impact of each of their children on the community, the nation, the world.
Now, does this mean we are driven by the tyranny of the urgent, don’t know how to say “No” to other people crowding their agendas in on us? Well, to some degree this is the case: but then, that is part of why we are here – to be of service to others. Long time ago Barbara and I were challenged not to do those things that others could do, but instead make it our business to do those things others can’t do or don’t want to do. I tell you, we have found that this approach has pretty much left most of the really interesting and challenging fields wide open to us and very few others! There is plenty of elbow room when there is little competition.
The hurdles and difficulties of life are almost entirely in the mind. If you focus on the hurdle or barrier in front of you, it is enormous and intimidating. If you are focussed on the glory of the vision way ahead of you, the barrier in front is actually suddenly difficult to see, just as a person standing directly in front of you is almost lost in the brightness of the sun just behind them. That doesn’t mean the barrier isn’t just as real…it just means that as you move toward your goal, either the barrier moves or you move it. If your focus is beyond the barrier, then beyond it your energies and efforts will generally take you. But if your focus is no farther than the barrier itself, then that is how far the energies you have rallied for the task will take you.
As Christian Home Educators in particular, if God is for us who can be against us? (Romans 8:31.) Many of the saints who continued to proclaim the Gospel in the face of fierce persecution did so because they understood this verse and the sovereignty of God more than do we today. They knew and operated on the basis of the fact that until the Lord chose to call them Home, they were unstoppable, indestructible, and so would carry on doing what they knew they had to do, what they were called to do.
Here is a great source of motivation: reading biographies of the saints: Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, CT Studd, Adoniram Judson, Gladys Aylward, Martin Luther, William Carey, David Livingston, David Brainerd….the list goes on and on. Read any stories of pioneer types: mountain climbers, polar explorers, the settlers in South Africa or North America. Home Education is still a task for real pioneers, for we are still slashing our way through mostly uncharted areas of family dynamics, social ostracism, educational philosophies, methodologies and content applicable to home tutoring in the 21st century, the political implications of being outside the near monopoly of state schooling, etc., etc. And being pioneers, life is just plain hard. No one understands you. You are constantly going against the grain of the majority. Your motives are continually being judged by others as devious and/or divisive. When you actually survive all that and get used to it, then you find yourself unable to bear graciously with the fools, the curious and the ignorant who constantly come to gawk at the strange sight you present.
And a strange sight it is. Our daughters aged 23 and 16 are doing a night class in making ball gowns. No one understands why they want their necklines so high or the fit so loose. Their peers at even church camps cannot understand why they don’t want to join them in constant talk about fashions, boys and makeup…..but the camp parents wish they had another dozen like them when they come asking for extra jobs to do after voluntarily doing every undone job in sight. No one understands why our sons aged 21 and 19 are not out chasing the girls and dating. But they are in demand as workers who put in a full day’s work and don’t stop til the job is done to a high standard, who get offered apprenticeships and full-time permanent jobs when they aren’t even seeking them.
In fact just this month I bade farewell to these two sons as they flew off to the USA for a year. They will buy a car in California and drive 2/3 of the way across the USA to a family business in Illinois that is keen to have them work for them. Then they are thinking of driving across Canada to visit Alaska before heading all the way down to Texas for a further six months. No, we are not worried that they will get involved in drugs. No we are not worried that they will sow wild oats and pick up some terrible sexually transmitted disease. Why? Because we have seen our vision coming to fruition in these men, who have never set foot inside a state school class room, even as we struggled with them and our other four children, and the adoption hassles we had with two of them, and our own marriage problems and difficult situations over the years in our employment and in our church. Through all the difficulties, by the grace of God alone, we kept, no I need to say HE kept us focussed on the vision of raising a generation of totally committed disciples of Jesus Christ, young people who are not merely able to cope with this bad old world, but young people who are going to tear this place apart and, Lord willing, turn the world back round the right way.
Now don’t think it’s been a piece of cake for these children: they’ve had to struggle being raised by us, two ex-pleasure-is-everything hedonists who imbibed our world views from the likes of Elvis, the Beach Boys, Janis Joplin and the Rolling Stones. While trying to clean up our own personal acts, we did only what we could, inconsistent and tentative as it was, to disciple our children according to the Scriptures. But one thing we know: by the Grace of God the vision was there in our hearts and so we talked of it often…..and over the years our children have seen it and embraced it for themselves!!!! Hallelujah!!
How do we know they have embraced it? Because the reason our sons are going to Texas, leaving behind excellent paying jobs in Illinois, is to commit themselves to a six month internship where they will trade three days of work for room and board plus two days of lectures and mentoring in how to be men of vision, leaders in their future marriages, homes, communities, churches. In short, they are studying to be Partriarchs, without doubt the most hated target of the Feminist agenda and the most totally un-PC item on the menu of our modern society. The older son, in fact, is going for a second bite of this cherry: he and the oldest daughter only returned last December after nearly two years in the USA pursuing these very things: unpaid work and service experience with relations and friends, paid and unpaid work and service with friends and different organisations with visionary people at the helm.
Two families I particularly have in mind here are Bill & Diana Waring of Beyond Survival & Reaping the Harvest fame with whom NZ home educators have a special friendship (www.dianawaring.com); and Bob & Linda Schneider of Rainbow Resource in Illinois (www.rainbowresource.com). Two organisations I particularly have in mind are: Summit Ministries who impart a Biblical world view to young people bound for tertiary campuses or the work force (www.summit.org); and Vision Forum who also impart a Biblical world view and leadership skills particularly into young men (www.visionforum.org).
We also know they have the vision because they also have the multigenerational family ideals, as much as is possible with only two generations to work with! The 23, 21 and 19 year olds have been spending a lot of time with their 10 year old little brother, taking him out with them when they can, because he is their brother. In the evenings what activity do they choose above night-clubbing (which they’ve never done) or movies or videos? Playing cards and/or sewing while listening to me, their dad, read books written 100 years ago on the various family responsibilities of parents and siblings or more recent publications on courtship, modesty, etc.
The King James version of Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision the people perish”. Other versions say something like, “Where there is no prophecy the people cast off restraint.” Casting off restraint indicates a loss of self-discipline, getting into the “Do your own thing” mentality, which is also a recipe for perishing. A vision requires self-discipline, delayed gratification, labouring away today in the hope that eventually things will be as you have desired.
Now, Barbara and I have discovered a little secret here, a little something to give us the edge, the confidence that our desires will be fulfilled. We ask the rhetorical question, “Does the will of the Lord God come to pass? Do things turn out the way He desires?” The answer is obvious: God’s will is always accomplished, on earth as it is in heaven, for who can resist, thwart or nullify His will? So, we said to ourselves, if we set our puny personal desires and aspirations aside and long for and desire the same things God desires, surely as His will is accomplished we are going to be the most fulfilled and satisfied people around! And so it has seemed to us right up to this very day!
We see ourselves here in this place and at this time for a reason: to positively impact as mightily as we can for the Lord whatever comes into our sphere of influence. The marching orders for this very thing are repeated throughout the Scriptures, from Genesis 1:28 through Matthew 28:18-20 through II Corinthians 5:17-20 through Revelation 12:11. Home education is to us the one viable way we ordinary families can accomplish this task all by ourselves, yet in concert with one another, without waiting for some committee to organise it or for some government department to fund it (as if they would!) or for some self-proclaimed professionals to approve of it.
Develop a vision for your own family. Embrace it and run with it, you parents and each child as well! There just won’t be enough hours in a day thereafter, and each day just won’t come soon enough! “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” – Hebrews 10:24-25.
1. However, let me sound a warning here. I’m definitely not talking about new age, humanistic methods of visualisation and pep-talking one’s self to success such as one finds in virtually every single multi-level or network marketing scheme under the sun. I’m not talking about the short-sighted goal of “financial independence.” The high-sounding Million Dollar Personal Success Plan of early MLM-er Paul J. Meyer, Founder of Success Motivation Institute, which goes like this: “Whatever you vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe, and enthusiastically act upon…must inevitably come to pass!” (emphasis added by me) is about as humanistic, unBiblical and antiChristian as you can get.
2. And I’m not talking about financial profitability here. Three passages of Scripture have been our guides in this area: Proverbs 14:23, “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to want”; I Corinthians 15:58, “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain”; and one on giving: Proverbs 3:9-10, “Honour the Lord with your substance and with the first fruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will be bursting with wine.”
From Keystone Magazine
March 2003 , Vol. IX No. 2
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