by Israel Wayne
“I could never homeschool my children. I don’t have enough patience. I couldn’t stand to have them around me that much!” Have you ever heard that line? What about: “I can’t wait for the school year to start! It will be such a relief to have the children back in school. They are driving me crazy!”
I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard these sentiments expressed. Many parents even say such things within earshot of their children.
Whenever a parent says something like that to me, my immediate response is, “Well, I guess that you, even more than other parents, really need to homeschool your children!” This always results in dropped jaws and incredulous stares.
Why Does God Want You to Teach Your Own Children?
There are two main reasons that God wants you to take responsibility for the discipleship of your children. The first reason has nothing to do with your children. That’s right! As counter-intuitive as it sounds, God wants you to teach your children for a purpose that doesn’t relate to them and their needs.
You see, whether or not we like to admit it, we have issues. Not just teensie-tiny issues; we have really, really big character flaws! One of our primary problems is that we are born inherently selfish (see Ps. 51:5). God is merciful, and He will not allow us to remain the selfish people that we have always been. If you belong to Him, He will discipline and train you (Hebrews 12) to become conformed into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).
One of the primary means by which God works out the selfishness and carnality in our lives is by allowing crisis into our lives to show us what we are truly like. To accomplish this more effectively, God hand-crafted customized little button-pushers, who are strategically designed to bring out the worst in us. They intuitively know how to rub us the wrong way. If you have ever wondered how on earth your children can be so effective in driving you crazy, it’s because they were custom made for that purpose. Annoying you is their primary job.
If you can come to grips with this fact, it may very well change the way you approach parenting. I remember coming home from work one day to find my young wife frazzled and at her wit’s end. Our two-year-old had stretched her to her limit. “He is SO disobedient!” she lamented.
“Did you expect something different?” I asked. “Of course he is disobedient. He is two years old.” Our job is to train him how to become something other than who he is. He doesn’t know how to do anything different unless we teach him. That teaching process is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s not going to happen in one day, or one month, or even one year. We’re in this for the long haul.
She breathed a long sigh and admitted, “I’m not sure that I’m up for this!”
Of course we’re up to this! God wouldn’t have given us this child if He didn’t know that we were up to the challenge. You see, God is doing the same thing to us that we are trying to do with our children. He is teaching us that life is not about us. The quicker we learn this lesson, the sooner we can start passing it on to our children. You can only give to someone else what you possess yourself.
God Wants YOUR Heart
That is why Deuteronomy 6 says, “This law which I give you this day shall be on your heart.” That is the starting point. God turns the hearts of the fathers first to the children, and only then does He turn the children’s hearts to the fathers (Mal. 4:6). God wants the hearts of the parents, and He knows that if you are subcontracting your children off to outside agencies to spare you the effort of the 24/7/365 parenting process, you are missing out on perhaps the primary means that God has established for your sanctification.
I recently heard a homeschooling mother lament the fact that she had much more time for Bible reading and prayer before she had children. I can certainly relate to that feeling! It seems like the more children you have, the more the pressures and responsibilities of life crowd out the things that we consider luxuries, such as taking naps, exercising, having a social life or developing our spiritual disciplines. It would seem that unmarried people (or at least people without children) have a much greater chance of being truly spiritual, since they are not distracted by the hectic pace of life brought on by child-rearing.
The reality is, however, that all of that external pressure we experience, as we homeschool our children each day, is the means by which God is sanctifying and conforming us into His image. The pressures of everyday life with our families (bills, medical needs, sickness, household mess, conflicts, etc.), are like an anvil on which God, the great spiritual blacksmith, hammers out a tool that is fit for His use.
A mother told me recently that she felt that things would be much more peaceful relationally if she sent her children to a government school. I told her things would also be much more peaceful if she and her husband would separate and live in different homes. Absence reduces conflict. It also drastically reduces the potential for relationships.
Our flesh wants to run away from this discipleship process as far and as fast as we can! We want no part of pain. We want comfort and ease. We want the world to revolve around us and our desires. We love us some us! But God is too kind, and gracious, and merciful to let us stay stuck as a slave to the kingdom of self. He wants to teach us how to take up our cross daily, deny ourselves, follow Him, and love and serve little people who don’t appreciate it (see Luke 9:23).
Once God has captured your heart and will, He then turns His focus to your children, and uses you as an agent of His grace in their lives. Your parenting will be far more effective when you can teach your children, by your own example (rather than your mere words), how God is conquering your sinful nature and self-absorbed worldview. Yes, your children need to be homeschooled so they can be trained in the way they should go, but you need it more. When a student is fully trained he will become like his teacher (Luke 6:40).
About Israel Wayne
Israel Wayne is a homeschool graduate who is passionate about defending the Christian faith and promoting a Biblical worldview. He is the Director of Family Renewal and author of the books Answers for Homeschooling: Top 25 Questions Critics Ask, Education: Does God Have an Opinion, Pitchin’ a Fit!: Overcoming Angry and Stressed-Out Parenting, and Raising Them Up: Parenting for Christians, among others. He and his wife, Brook, are raising their eleven children in southwest Michigan. More information may be found at familyrenewal.org.
This article was originally published on March 5, 2018 at FamilyRenewal.org. Reprinted with permission.