Winter has finally come to the Chicago area. We enjoyed a record-setting number of days with neither frost nor snow. Kind of nice, but havoc for the sinuses. One of the things I like about the seasons is that it reminds my sinful heart that I do not control the universe. I need the occasional reminder, know what I mean?
I was thinking back to one thought-provoking winter a few years ago and what the Lord taught me about one of our many homeschooling struggles:
Homeschooling and feelings of doubt are close companions. We wonder if we are doing it “right.” Are we doing “enough?” Are we doing as well as so-and-so? Sometimes this doubt ripens into feeling like a full-fledged failure. Maybe the children aren’t learning “fast” enough. Maybe one of them has exhibited a striking character defect which you have been trying to minimize.
Most homeschoolers, at some point, feel that they have blown it. One day in particular stands out in my mind. We were going through a tough time with one child. This was prior to her diagnosis with ADD and learning disability. Like any good, Bible believing homeschooler, we were attributing her difficulties to lack of character training. After one particularly painful episode, I held her, rocked her and prayed, “Please Jesus, help this child to learn to be cheerfully obedient.” She listened and thought for a moment, then prayed her own prayer: “Dear Jesus, please help Mommy to not be so mean.”
Out of the mouths of babes came the conviction that by my harshness and lack of loving grace that I had failed this child. Eventually, I repented and asked her to forgive me. Our relationship is now on firmer footing and, not surprisingly, her behavior has improved dramatically.
I felt like a failure with that child. I felt I had failed her and had failed the God who entrusted her upbringing to me. Through some deep time of prayer and crying out to God, we weathered the storm and have been restored to a healthy relationship. First, I had to accept responsibility for the situation.
Yes, there were mistakes made and, yes, I made them in abundance. But I knew I served a gracious God who was eager to forgive me. I sought His forgiveness, and the forgiveness of others, and each were granted freely. Next, I realized that this feeling of failure was the beginning of the turnaround in my situation.
It forced me to look to God and to seek alternative ways of feeling, responding and parenting. This re-evaluation led to real, lasting change. I looked first to God for wisdom in this situation – God who gives wisdom generously if we but ask (James 1:5). His admonition to not hinder or exasperate children led to a softening of my heart and a restoration of feelings of compassion to replace the familiar irritation.
Finally, I focused on the future for this child, rather than dwelling on her difficult, painful past. I prayed with her and for her and she would see God’s plans to give her a future and a hope. God turned around my feeling like a failure and granted me the desire of my heart – to live in love and peace with those I have been entrusted to raise.
Don’t be afraid if you feel you have failed. God can use it in miraculous ways, if we will trust Him to show us His way to restoration.